By Ed Silverman // March 30th, 2012 // 3:54 pm
Here is an irony, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, which is devoted to combating anxiety, depression and stress-related disorders, is causing some stress and anxiety among academics and physicians. Why? The professional organization recently named Charles Nemeroff, the controversial psychiatry professor, to its board.
And so, an Internet petition is now circulating that calls on the ADAA board to swiftly remove Nemeroff before the reputation of the organization and its professionals are sullied. How so? His “track record of unethical behavior that has harmed the standing of our field, the credibility of some of its treatments, and risked the well being of millions of patients,” according to the petition.
For those who may not recall, Nemeroff was an Emory University professor who was sanctioned for failing to disclose that he had accepted about $500,000 in payments from GlaxoSmithKline while he was also the primary investigator for a National Institutes of Health study of the Paxil antidepressant, which is sold by the drugmaker (see here).
The details emerged thanks to a US Senate Finance committee probe into undisclosed conflicts of interest. At issue was the extent to which such relationships may unduly influence medical research and practice. The Senate probe reached out like an octopus and ensnared various drugmakers, universities, medical journals and the NIH itself, specifically the National Institutes of Mental Health (see this).
Since then, various drugmakers and institutions have gradually adopted policies concerning disclosure. And, of course, the pharmaceutical industry will be required to publish payments to physicians next year. As for Nemeroff, he now chairs the psychiatry department at the Miller School of Medicine at The University of Miami, where he is, once again, seeking grants from the NIH, according to sources.
Next month, Nemeroff is scheduled to make his first appearance as an ADAA board member when the organization holds its annual meeting. The petition hopes to rescind the decision before his public vetting. “In determining its position on the issue, the (ADAA) board apparently overlooked or questioned the severity of the case against Dr. Nemeroff. Nonetheless, we do not believe the board’s position represents general sentiment within the professional community, nor does it erase the public record upon which many potential supporters of ADAA will determine their opinion,” the petition states.
“By selecting Dr. Nemeroff to represent the organization at its highest level, the board sends the wrong message to ADAA’s membership and to the public at large regarding the organization’s values and commitment to integrity in patient care, research, and education. ADAA is not immune to the public distrust and decline in professional membership inevitably associated with decay of an organization’s credibility.”
We asked the ADDA for comment and will update you accordingly. We also left a message for Nemeroff and will convey any reply that we may receive. For now, here is the petition.
* 70% of DSM Psychiatrists Financially Tied to Drug Companies
Mike Barrett, Natural Society
* Psychology research fraud endemic
Benedict Carey, The New York Times
* Greed: Is Psychiatry Poised For Economic Meltdown?
Vera Hassner Sharav, AHRP