To the Biederman, Anversa, and Hauser Hall of Fame at Harvard…

… we can now add Calestous Juma, a Kennedy School prof laboring mightily to do the bidding of his corporate besties at Monsanto as together they make the world safe for modified crops.

UD ain’t claiming Juma’s a pioneer in the business of exploiting one’s connection to Harvard to fuck with research results and/or earn millions in questionable corporate and other supporting funds and/or let corporations write your papers for you; Joseph Biederman got there long before Juma, as did, allegedly, Piero Anversa, and good ol’ Marc Hauser. UD‘s only claiming that the tradition of selling yourself and Harvard to, uh, interested corporations continues to thrive at that school.

Don’t forget: Biederman is still at Harvard, and Schatzberg is still at Stanford.

[Joseph] Biederman, along with Charles Nemeroff, who was then at Emory University, and Alan Schatzberg of Stanford (the 116th President of the American Psychiatric Association) are in many ways poster boys for [pharma corruption]. Ironically, it was Schatzberg, during his presidency in 2009, who responded vehemently to Allen Frances’s criticisms of the DSM 5 task force by pointing to the $10,000 in royalties Frances was still receiving from DSM IV. Apparently, the $4.8 million in stock options Schatzberg had in a drug development company, or the fat fees he received from such companies as Pfizer, had no similar distorting effect on his judgment — just as the $960,000 Charles Nemeroff received from GlaxoSmithKline (while reporting only $35,000 to his university) had no influence on him. And just as the millions of dollars that Biederman and his associates at Harvard received for creating a new diagnosis and a massive new market for antidepressants and second-generation antipsychotics among young children (drugs associated with massive weight gain, metabolic disorders, diabetes, and premature death) had nothing to do with their behavior!

Nemeroff is now at the University of Miami, but that’s not a scandal because Miami isn’t a respectable university. The scandal lies at respectable places like Stanford and Harvard, which will “turn a blind eye to ethical failings if the money on offer is sufficiently tempting.”

Harvard University’s Professor Joseph Biederman…

… has had a long, storied, lucrative relationship with the Johnson and Johnson corporation, makers of Risperdal, an absolutely adorable anti-psychotic for the millions of American children who, thanks largely to Biederman’s research, have been diagnosed bipolar.

What’s adorable about Risperdal is how it’s marketed. What child can resist free legos? Risperdal puts legos stamped with the word RISPERDAL in pediatricians offices! If the sight of a three-year old playing with toys advertising her induction into a world of really powerful anti-psychotic medicine doesn’t make you go AWWWW, maybe there’s something wrong with you.

Biederman’s Harvard-legitimized work for J&J no doubt made it easier for that company to get states like Texas to approve it for Medicaid coverage. Only now the state’s all pissed and it’s suing to beat the band because “The state contends it paid 45 times more for Risperdal than comparable drugs after accepting the company’s claims that it was superior to rival medications.” (Let’s not even talk about J&J ad reps kissing doctors’ asses to get them to prescribe it in unapproved ways.) On what research (assuming the state of Texas is able – and willing – to read research) did Texas base its conclusion that its citizens should subsidize Risperdal?

So – bottom line here is that J&J will lose the case and will be made to pay an absolutely derisory sum in damages – a few hundred million, the cost of doing business, no one gives a shit.

Joseph Biederman: Bad on Ya!

What Harvard expert have the Australians been relying on to set their ADHD diagnosis / Ritalin use national standards?

WHOOPS. Monsieur Multiple Sanctions himself, Joseph Biederman.

Now what to do?

Nothing. In fact the committee has all this time just been sitting around waiting for the results of Harvard’s investigation into You mean I was supposed to tell you that the firms who make the drugs I research give me millions of dollars? Biederman.

And meanwhile the Australian committee had to toss its chair because “his ties with pharmaceutical companies that produce ADHD drugs were exposed.”

Yes indeed. Fellow psychiatrists rely on Biederman for more than his research results. There’s an entire ethos to be emulated here. After all, he’s the leader in the field.


Will this committee assemble itself and get serious about protecting the health of young Australians?

I’d say the outlook is grim. There they sit, the provincials, waiting for big fancy Americans at Harvard to tell them what to do. Tsk.

Harvard: Still Biding its Time on Biederman

Every now and then University Diaries looks in on Harvard professor Joseph Biederman. She’s doing it today because he’s featured in a Duff Wilson article about the over-prescription of anti-psychotic drugs in this country.

… Documents produced in recent litigation and in congressional investigations show that some leading academic doctors have worked closely with corporate benefactors to expand the use of anti-psychotics.

The most well-known is Joseph Biederman… His studies, examining the prevalence of bipolar psychological disorders in children, helped expand practice standards, leading to a 40-fold increase in such diagnoses from 1994 to 2003. [Yeah you read dat right. Forty-fold.]

… Between 2000 and 2007, he also got $1.6 million in speaking and consulting fees — some of them undisclosed to Harvard — from companies, including makers of anti-psychotic drugs prescribed for children who might have bipolar disorder, a Senate investigation found in 2008.

Johnson & Johnson gave more than $700,000 to a research center that was headed by Biederman from 2002 to 2005, records show, and some of its work supported the company’s anti-psychotic drug, Risperdal. Biederman said that the money did not influence him and that some of his work supported other drugs.

… A Harvard spokesman said [Biederman is] still under review…

Yes, take your time reviewing him. He’s only been at it for a decade or so. Take another decade. There’s so much more he can do with Harvard’s prestige backing him up.

The Biederman Legacy

Harvard Medical School tightened its policy on conflict of interest, banning faculty from receiving corporate gifts and meals and restricting them from speaking on behalf of companies…

Harvard University also adopted a campus-wide policy on conflict of interest, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school said on its website…

The medical school was earlier stung by criticism when Senator Charles Grassley said Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Biederman failed to disclose some payments from drug companies while he conducted research recommending their medications for treating children with mental disorders…

The Name Joseph Biederman Never Appears in this…

Wall Street Journal article about the devastating consequences of doping tens of thousands of children with anti-psychotics, but it should.  This is his legacy.

Harvard University, which continues to employ Biederman, should also take a bow.

The growth in antipsychotic-drug prescriptions for children is slowing as state Medicaid agencies heighten their scrutiny of usage and doctors grow more wary of the powerful medications.

The softening in sales for children is the first sign that litigation, reaction to improper marketing tactics, and concern about side effects may be affecting what had been a fast-growing children’s drug segment.

… Antipsychotics have faced heightened scrutiny and investigation over the past year. In November, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee asked the FDA to research children’s use of the drugs and expressed concern about possible side effects such as weight gain and increased diabetes risk. And 11 state attorneys general are investigating alleged marketing of Eli Lilly & Co.’s antipsychotic Zyprexa for uses the FDA hasn’t approved.

In January, Eli Lilly agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle allegations it improperly marketed Zyprexa. The company also agreed to plead guilty to a criminal charge of promoting the drug for unapproved uses.

A Lilly spokesman declined to comment on ongoing litigation and said the company doesn’t track the drug’s use in children.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. agreed to pay $515 million in September 2007 to settle allegations it promoted Abilify for use in children. The FDA didn’t approve of the use of the drug in children older than 10 until 2008.

… Some states began moving to require special approval before they would cover a claim for an antipsychotic. A group of 16 states started studying the use of psychiatric medication in children in 2007 in an effort they dubbed “too many, too much, too young” …


Via Alliance for Human Research Protection.

Wagnerian Leitmotif

Karen Wagner, a psychiatry professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, seems to sound a repetitive theme in her work: Accept undisclosed money from drug companies; put your name on articles substantively ghostwritten for drug companies; and just generally over many years demonstrate the sort of behavior that gets you … named president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Rewards in this field, after all, go to people able to increase the probability that drug firms – eager, in the latest case involving Wagner, to rain anti-depressants upon the heads of our teeniest tots – will get FDA approval for their products.

Does the pill do anything a placebo doesn’t… ? Might it have dire side effects… ?

Erfahrt, wie sich die Pharmakonzerne rächen,
von deren Huld ihr euch gewandt!


UD‘s friend Barney suggests some ways out.


Oh – and speaking of kiddies and the makers of fun adorable stuff for them to play with, like Risperdal blocks – a new movie about that drug is coming out, and UD is way excited at the possibility that it will star one of the most… intriguing characters we’ve met on this blog: Harvard’s Joseph Biederman.

“The U of M has sued Weiss to recover its own costs.”

How do you get to this point?

How, in one of America’s more enlightened, compassionate states, do you get to the point where that state’s university sues the grieving mother of a son who killed himself while enrolled in one of that university’s drug trials? That mother, Mary Weiss, did everything humanly possible to try to get a son she knew was too mentally fragile to have given consent to be dosed with a new antipsychotic (they’re almost never really new; they’re slightly fussed with so that manufacturers can charge more) taken out of that trial. But the big money from AstraZeneca was there in the psychiatry department at the University of Minnesota, and the amazingly positive results they needed for their next advertising campaign needed to be delivered, and Weiss’s son would have to play his part.

If Pirandello were writing this tragedy, he’d have titled it Six Characters in Search of Psychotics.

Or … Take the name from a recently released documentary: The Hunting Ground.

Mothers, lock up your children. Pharma’s sniffing around.

The lawsuit that the University of Minnesota initiated against Weiss was about bullying her into dropping her legal efforts against the university. The bullying worked.

What didn’t work was UM’s effort to pretend nothing sordid happened here. More than a few pharma-subsidized university trials are sordid, since there’s big money at stake, as well as pressure to produce the results all that money’s paying for. Things might not be quite as blatantly sordid as Star Scientific and Novartis and Joseph Biederman … The cynical determination to overdiagnose and overmedicate every person in America might not be quite as thunderingly obvious… But, as at the University of Minnesota, the deal was pretty clear to anyone able to see.

Now that the Minnesota state auditor has discovered what anyone able to see could see, that university has a big, big problem.

Faint Heart Never Won Full Funding

If there’s one thing UD‘s learned from following the history of retracted papers – most of them, lately, hothothot stem cell papers – is that you don’t want to go half way. You don’t get to be “the principal investigator on grants totaling $57 million since 2000″ without going for it, attracting BIG attention onaccounta your amazing, but strikingly difficult to replicate, work on regenerating dying hearts.

UD has also learned that with the imprimatur of Harvard behind you (our old friend Joseph Biederman continues, in his curious research, to benefit from the association, as does the scientist at issue here, Piero Anversa, the scrambled letters of whose name, UD feels sure, add up to some great phrases, but she’s not up to the task right now), you can just keep rolling along and pulling it in (all those millions for Biederman and Anversa are of course your taxes). People have been making a fuss (a negative fuss) about Anversa’s work for more than ten years.

One Harvard researcher who has long been familiar with Anversa’s work said that many people at Harvard are not surprised by these developments. “If anything it’s surprising how long it’s taken for these questions to surface.”

It’s kind of a funny way to live, isn’t it? You watch a way-belaureled scientist do his questionable research year after year… Many of you watch…


Only 33, and already so adept at fudging conflict of interest for his own gain!

Well, you’d expect such a wunderkind on the faculty of Harvard Business School.

And it just goes to show the strides universities like Harvard – which has had you don’t wanna know from conflict of interest scandals! – have made in dealing with the problem. Really getting the message down to younger faculty.


OTOH: This guy’s mom must be so proud! Look what sonny boy did! Still a pisher and he wrote something and the stock in that company just fell like a rock!


All UD can say is: When your models at Harvard are COI giants like Andrei Shleifer and Joseph Biederman (search their names if you dare), the sky’s the limit.


Oh, one more thing UD can say – and she always says it: Beware Beware Beware the B-School Boys.

Scratch an International Medical Scandal…

… and you’ll find our old friend, Harvard University’s Joseph Biederman. Go here for prior posts about this man.

Corporate creep…

… happens all over the American university, of course; but some forms destroy the institution and some just cheapen it. I think Derek Bok is right that when for-profit businesses start providing instructors for non-profit universities’ online courses, it’s extremely destructive:

[Northeastern University’s online] instructors mostly do come from “the Northeastern family,” [a campus representative] says, meaning people familiar to the university because they are alumni or have taught the course before as lecturers. But on “one or two occasions,” …the university has needed someone, “and Embanet has provided an instructor for us.”

… Mr. Bok sees a “dangerous trend.” Even though campus officials insist that they control hiring decisions, he doubts that a college would veto a company’s recommendation in a situation in which students were waiting for a class, and time to find a teaching assistant was limited. Mr. Bok emphasizes that he is speaking generally, not about any particular institution. But as a matter of principle, he says, “you have crossed the line” by using a private company to recommend teaching assistants.

“You have now delegated an essential academic function, which is choosing who will assist in the teaching function, to a company,” he says. “You could say it’s not very important. But of course, the way principles break down is because the first thing is not very important.”

Similarly, when pharmaceutical companies, through subcontracted ghostwriting firms, write scientific articles for university professors (articles touting their pills), it’s extremely destructive. It goes on quite a bit – as does corporations running university courses – and it’s extremely destructive.

We find out about it when the lawsuits start happening: When students sue schools on the basis of fraud (as they have for some time been suing the tax-syphon for-profit ed providers), and when the government sues yet another corrupt pharma outfit, as it has most recently successfully sued Johnson & Johnson, we see how the deal works, how universities in search of revenue hand over their academic functions to corporations.

In the Johnson and Johnson matter

the case file includes a list of academic researchers who wrote articles for medical journals that the company allegedly used to overstate the benefits and understate the risks of a blockbuster drug…

A primary investigation underlying the case identified 44 articles written by university scientists and colleagues, many of them joint collaborations that included Johnson & Johnson researchers, described as being overseen in some manner by the company.

Yes, let’s do it together! Let’s run the class together; let’s write the article together. After all, we’re both motivated by the same thing: Pure pedagogical or scientific integrity…

UD was warmed to see the name of Joseph Biederman, a man who has arguably done more than anyone to make the world safe for baby Risperdal, among the university scientists working, er, hand in glove, with Johnson & Johnson.

Some university authors — including Joseph Biederman, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard who gained renown for collecting at least $1.6-million in consulting fees from drug makers …appeared to be more personally aware than others of their misrepresentations…

Dr. Biederman, through a lawyer, declined to comment on his work with Risperdal.

Johnson & Johnson will pay a pittance – 2.2 billion – in penalties for having illegally marketed Risperdal. Joe will keep his trap shut and stay at Bok’s Harvard. All quiet on the western front.


Brings back memories of Mr Risperdal himself, Harvard University’s Joseph Biederman.

Portenoy’s Plaint

UD’s friend Roy Poses at Health Care Renewal takes a look at Russell Portenoy, a professor at Yeshiva.

In the last few decades, Portenoy has been busy making the world safe for opioids, insisting that millions of Americans can take them with little to no risk of addiction. He has also been enriching himself through consulting and speaking for pain pill manufacturers.

Portenoy isn’t alone. Here’s another advocate:

[In 1998, one doctor] said he understood that a patient would simply ‘go to sleep’ before stopping breathing. While asleep, he said, the patient ‘can’t take a dangerous dose. It sounds scary, but as far as I know, nobody anywhere is getting burned by doing it this way.’

This is the functional equivalent of John Willke on rape.


Plenty of academic doctors continue to exploit the legitimacy their academic positions give them to shill for pain pill pharma, but what’s intriguing here is that Portenoy now expresses some regrets:

‘I gave innumerable lectures in the late 1980s and ’90s about addiction that weren’t true,’ Dr. Portenoy said in a 2010 videotaped interview with a fellow doctor.

Not just not true. They helped create the stupendous pain pill addiction epidemic in this country.


It seems obvious that we should, as Roy says, be skeptical of “people paid by narcotics manufacturers advocating increased use of these drugs, no matter how distinguished, scholarly, or influential these people appear to be.” But in the equally destructive matter of anti-psychotics for children, Joseph Biederman, who continues on the Harvard faculty, seems to have met with no skepticism at all – at least none that could stop him as he almost singlehandedly caused a 40-fold increase in the use of these dangerous drugs.

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