By Kristina C.
Three Harvard psychiatrists, including a leading proponent in the off-label use of antipsychotics for bipolar disorder in children, have been disciplined by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital for not fully disclosing the extent of their ties to drug companies under the federal Physicians Payment Sunshine Act of 2010. Drs. Joseph Biederman, Thomas Spencer and Timothy Wilens are said to have accepted more than $4.2 million from drug companies including Johnson & Johnson for psychiatric research and other activities between 2000-2007, and not reporting the income to Harvard, MGH or the federal government.
According to NPR, back in 2008, the doctors’ undisclosed industry payments were brought to light when Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) reported discrepancies between what various drug companies said they paid them, and what the doctors themselves reported to Harvard and the MGH.
All three doctors have “published extensively” on ADHD in children and adults. Further, Biederman (the most senior in rank as he’s a full professor at Harvard), is a leading voice in using powerful antipsychotic drugs to treat bipolar disorder in children. As NPR says, “his work is widely seen as contributing to an explosive growth in such prescriptions, and much of his support came from companies that benefited from his research.”
The three doctors are now barred from accepting payments for “all paid industry-sponsor outside activities” for one year, after which they must seek approval ” before engaging in any “paid activities” and report to Harvard and the MGH on those activities for an additional two years.” They must also attend training on conflict-of-interest and will be subjected to “a delay of consideration for promotion or advancement,” a penalty that falls especially harshly on Spencer and Wilens, who, as associate professors, are both of lower rank than Biederman.