Monday, July 14, 2008


14 July 2008


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.


Anonymous said...

The beauty of this all is that neither Stanford, Schatzberg, nor the APA seem to have any sense that there might be something wrong.

Reading their excuses is like watching the Three Stooges trying to fit all at once through a narrow doorway.

Anonymous said...

Great piece.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

In my Oxford English Dictionary "constrain" falls between "Circumstantial evidence" and "Crooked"

Circumstantial evidence: Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk. (Thoreau)

Crooked: "Following the path of least resistance is what makes rivers and men crooked."

Truthman30 said...

Personally, I would be of the opinion that these academic psychiatric institutions funded and aided by Pharma do indeed realize that what they are doing is wrong ..

It is only now that they are being questioned on it that they realize they must in some way defend the practice..

Psychiatrists know that the strangle hold they yield in the field of "mental illness" is because of the unwillingness of governments to tackle the issues, so instead they leave it to Psychiatry. The "illnesses" being highly stigmatized, poorly understood and frightening as they are, it is of no surprise to see why the situation would develop as it has done.

The "mentally ill" have been consigned to psychiatric "treatment" for decades because they have largely been deemed as societies "dirty linen"..

In essence what "mental illness" reflects is not the failure of human nature but the dismal the failure of societies..

Psychiatry is extremely hostile to criticism because it believes it has an almost divine right of ownership of the "mental illness" business model...

This business model is based on its faustian pact with the pharmaceutical industry..

Both feed off each other in order to create a system where the patients of the system are continually drugged...

In the country where I am from, I once dared to question the motives of a prominent psychiatrist , I wrote some letters discussing the conflicts of interest which this psychiatrist seemed to have with a major SSRI distributer. It was blatantly obvious to me that the sponsorship of this psychiatrist which included symposia and lectures etc was detrimental to the public health.

Needless to say, I was told in a letter in no uncertain terms that if I was to speak out anymore against this individual psychiatrist that I would be sued ...

In other words.. I was told to "keep my mouth shut or else" ...

Psychiatry has become like a criminal organization and unfortunately the lives and minds of the "mentally ill" have been sold to the pharmaceutical industry..

It is very sad..
But History will tell the tale and history is seldom kind when it comes to these kinds of human rights abuses..
A more evolved society will look back in horror at psychiatry today, just like we look back in horror at the practices of psychiatry 100 years ago..