Drug Researcher Agrees to Curb Role

Wall Street Journal
By JENNIFER LEVITZ

biederman1

Joseph Biederman, a top researcher on the use of psychiatric drugs in children, agreed to stop participating in several industry-funded drug trials and curb other activities pending the outcome of a Boston hospital’s inquiry into his potential conflicts of interest and disclosure obligations.

The deal, announced Tuesday by Massachusetts General Hospital, where Dr. Biederman conducts research, followed several allegations related to his relationships with drug companies. Dr. Biederman has been a prominent backer of childhood use of Johnson & Johnson’s Risperdal, a top-selling antipsychotic drug.

A U.S. Senate review found that Dr. Biederman had received $1.6 million in payments from drug companies between 2000 and 2007 while reporting only a fraction of that amount to Harvard University, where he is a faculty member. Separately, Massachusetts General has said it was concerned that an institute that Dr. Biederman and J&J worked together to create at the hospital was used to promote Risperdal’s use in children, rather than for scientific or educational purposes.

Dr. Biederman declined to comment but said in a letter published this month in The Wall Street Journal that J&J’s interests didn’t interfere with the institute’s work.

In a statement Tuesday, J&J’s Janssen unit said that in funding the institute from 2002 to 2004 it “followed strict guidelines to ensure scientific independence and did not direct the content or conclusions of the research.”

In its statement, Massachusetts General said Dr. Biederman would stop industry-funded activities at the hospital until its review was completed. Hospital spokeswoman Peggy Slasman said that would mean Dr. Biederman would discontinue his participation in several industry-funded clinical trials there. The hospital declined to describe the studies, which it said would continue under a different doctor.

Dr. Biederman also agreed not to participate in “any outside activities that are paid for or sponsored by industry, such as consulting activities or speaking engagements,” the hospital said.

Peter Spivack, Dr. Biederman’s attorney, said his client “understands the institution’s desire to have a full inquiry and supports that.”

Harvard University Medical School is also conducting its own review of Dr. Biederman, according to David Cameron, its spokesman, but hasn’t curtailed the doctor’s role at the school.

The inquiries come amid scrutiny of drug-industry payments to doctors at academic medical centers and the hospitals’ oversight of those payments. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has accused many schools of failing to supervise researchers adequately.

In a statement Tuesday, Sen. Grassley, a critic of Dr. Biederman, said, “It’s positive that Massachusetts General Hospital is taking some action.”

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