14 July 2008
SCHATZBERG, STANFORD and the AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION
The chairman of psychiatry at Stanford University, Dr. Alan Schatzberg, is still in the news for his problems at the boundary of commerce and academia. The New York Times reported that Dr. Schatzberg believes constraints on researchers trying to develop drugs “will mean less opportunities to help patients with severe illnesses.” Just as patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, so patient welfare is the last refuge of the dodgy medical entrepreneur.
What exactly does Dr. Schatzberg mean by “constraints”? Does he object to transparency as a “constraint”? Would he feel “constrained” by the need to disclose his stock sales to his academic institution? The Stanford Daily commented recently that Stanford policy “requires that faculty members divulge any and all financial gains made through outside interactions that could have bearing on what they are doing on campus.” One reason for this requirement is so that the institution can disclose these financial dealings to NIH, which funds Dr. Schatzberg’s academic work that dovetails with his corporation’s research. It is difficult to reconcile Dr. Schatzberg’s protestations of compliance with the non-reporting of his stock sale valued at over $100,000 (not to mention his efforts to sell stock valued at $7-11 million).
Would Dr. Schatzberg and his corporate associates feel “constrained” by the requirement to disclose their competing financial interests when touting the company’s drug in scientific journals, textbooks, educational media, and press interviews? The record is clear that they have repeatedly failed to do so.
Would Dr. Schatzberg and his corporate associates feel “constrained” by the canons of science that frown on exaggerated claims and hyperbole in the service of their business enterprise? The record is clear that they have repeatedly overstated the evidence for their drug’s prospects. These exaggerated claims were touted by the corporation when raising capital.
Would Dr. Schatzberg feel “constrained” by the societal expectation to refrain from gaming the entrepreneurial reward system? He appeared to believe he was entitled to cash out $7-11 million of other people’s money before actually producing anything of redeeming social value.
If this is what Dr. Schatzberg means by “constraints” then his fitness for the office of president of the American Psychiatric Association needs to be reconsidered.
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