Top U.S. psychiatrist failed to report $2.8 million in drug company pay
Dr. Charles Nemeroff of Emory University was once considered to be one of the top psychiatrists in the country, with respect to children's mental health and psychopharmacology. The New York Times reported on October 4, however, that he failed to report $2.8 million dollars worth of consulting arrangements with drug manufacturers during the years 2000-2007.
While Nemeroff attributes the false reporting to innocent errors, the paperwork unearthed by Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa suggests something more insidious. For example, Nemeroff reported to the University on July 15 of 2004 that he would earn less than $10,000 in 2004 from Glaxo-Smith Kline (pursuant to Federal reporting requirements). In fact, on that day he was staying at a resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and earning $3,000.00 from the company for a speech. In that year, GSK paid him a total of $170,000.00. Perhaps that's just "chump change" for the doctor. Nemeroff apparently stepped down from his Department Chairmanship at Emory on Friday.
Another physician investigated by Congress, Dr. Melissa DelBello of the University of Cincinnati, reported earning $100,000 from eight drug manufacturers between 2005 and 2007, however, her records show that Astra Zeneca, alone, paid her $238,000.00 during this period. Harvard doctors Joseph Biederman and Timothy Willens reported to their university that they earned several hundred thousand dollars each from 2000 to 2007, when records showed them earning at least $1.6 million dollars each during that period. Senator Grassley has said that he found problems with "transparency" (one might substitute the words "truth" or "fraud", it seems) "everywhere. The current system for tracking financial relationships [between doctors and drug manufacturers] isn't working."
One wonders whether the National Institute of Mental Health would have funded a five-year, $3.9 million dollar grant, making Nemeroff the principal investigator, if it had known of Nemeroff's relationship with GSK. When Emory investigated Nemeroff's financial consulting arrangements in 2004, it identified multiple "serious" and "significant" violations of university procedures intended to protect patients, according to the Times article. Nemeroff reportedly has defended his relationship with drug manufacturers to school authorities by touting the financial rewards to the school of his membership on a dozen corporate advisory boards. Many think the conflict of interest complications have been a direct product of the 1980 law that allowed universities to own patents resulting from research using federal grant money.