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Bruce E. Levine: NPR Embarrassed by Psychiatrist Host: Bad Apple or Bad Barrel?

In a high-profile move, NPR has fired psychiatrist Frederick Goodwin and cancelled his radio show, The Infinite Mind, after finding the doctor was taking millions of dollars from drug companies in speaking and promotion fees at the same time he was dispensing psychiatric advice to his listeners. In one instance, Goodwin reportedly shilled for a drug company on his NPR show on the same day he received a huge fee to give a presentation promoting the same drug on the drug company’s dime. Conflict of interest much?

Psychiatrist Bruce E. Levine, author of Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy, pulls back the curtain on the rampant corruption in the psychiatric profession in this article from The Huffington Post.

National Public Radio announced on November 21, 2008 that it had fired psychiatrist Frederick Goodwin and would be terminating his program “The Infinite Mind.” Goodwin was released after NPR learned that he had received at least $1.3 million from drug companies between 2000 and 2007. In the 2008 ongoing Congressional investigation of psychiatry, Goodwin is the most recent prominent psychiatrist exposed for either unethical or, in some cases, illegal financial relationships with drug companies.

During the last decade, Goodwin’s “The Infinite Mind” aired weekly in more than 300 radio markets. The program received major financial support from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. “The Infinite Mind” billed itself as “public radio’s most honored and listened to health and science program,” but on November 21, 2008 the New York Times reported:

In a program broadcast on Sept. 20, 2005, Dr. Goodwin warned that children with bipolar disorder who are left untreated could suffer brain damage, a controversial view. “But as we’ll be hearing today,” Dr. Goodwin reassured his audience, “modern treatments — mood stabilizers in particular — have been proven both safe and effective in bipolar children.” That very day, GlaxoSmithKline paid Dr. Goodwin $2,500 to give a promotional lecture for its mood stabilizer drug, Lamictal, at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla. Indeed, Glaxo paid Dr. Goodwin more than $329,000 that year for promoting Lamictal, records given Congressional investigators show.

Goodwin claims that NPR was aware of his financial relationship with drug companies, but his show’s producer Bill Lichtenstein said that he had called Goodwin earlier this year and asked him “point-blank” if he was receiving funding directly or indirectly from pharmaceutical companies and Goodwin’s answer was, “No.” While it is not certain as to who is lying in this instance, Goodwin’s assertion that not treating children diagnosed with bipolar disorder results in brain damage has no scientific basis; in fact, there is evidence that psychiatric medication can, in some cases, cause brain damage.

This is not the first time Frederick Goodwin’s embarrassment of a high-profile employer resulted in his job termination. On February 28, 1992, the New York Times reported the following about Goodwin, “The director of the Federal Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration resigned today amid a new round of criticism for his comments that appeared to suggest a scientific link between the violent behavior of monkeys and the social problems of inner cities.” After Goodwin was forced to resign for what his critics in Congress and the media believed were racist remarks, he was appointed as director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Goodwin has not been psychiatry’s only public relations disaster in 2008, as Congressional investigators have exposed several other renowned psychiatrists for improper financial relationships with drug companies.The New York Times on June 8, 2008 reported:

A world-renowned Harvard child psychiatrist whose work has helped fuel an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medicines in children earned at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007 but for years did not report much of this income to university officials. . . . By failing to report income, the psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Biederman, and a colleague in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Timothy E. Wilens, may have violated federal and university research rules designed to police potential conflicts of interest.

Congressional investigators discovered that two of Biederman’s colleagues in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, Timothy Wilens and Thomas Spencer, received an additional $2.6 million from drug companies from 2000 to 2007.

Read the whole article here.


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