Leading Emory Psychiatrist ‘Fails’ to Report $1.2 Million of Drug Income
By Eric Blair
19:54, October 4th 2008
Emory University psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff has been accused of not reporting almost half of the $2.8 million he had received from drug company GlaxoSmithKline between 2000 and 2007 as payment for heading a National Institutes of Health study on five anti-depressants produced by the company. By doing so, he has violated federal research rules.
The man pointing the finger is Senator Charles E. Grassley, who addressed an open letter to Emory University on Friday by publishing it in the Congressional Record. Grassley, an advocate of transparency in medical payments is promoting a bill titled the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which if passed, will require drug companies and medical device manufacturers to disclose any payments over a certain value that they make to physicians. Two companies, Eli Lilly & Co. and Merck & Co, have said that they will make such disclosures starting next year, even if the bill is not passed.
Grassley, who is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees national healthcare programs Medicare and Medicaid, said in his letter to Emory that Dr. Nemeroff consistently lied about the amount of money he was receiving from GlaxoSmithKline. One blatant example is the year 2003, in which Nemeroff claims to have received no more than $15,000 from the pharmaceutical company, however they say they paid $119,756. That’s almost ten times the amount. It was even better the previous year, when he reported receiving the same sum, but the company says they paid him $232,248. Apparently he hid the true sum because crossing his declared threshold would have required him
In a statement of the obvious, Emory called the contents of the senator’s letter “serious allegations” and said that "[It] take[s] this matter very seriously and are working diligently to determine whether our policies have been observed consistently," and according to Senator Grassley, they’re not. The Nemeroff affair is part of a larger conflict-of-interest Congressional Inquiry led by Grassley, which has shown that in many cases doctors’ payment declarations and drug companies’ actual records have very little to do with one another.
“After questioning about 20 doctors and research institutions, it looks like problems with transparency are everywhere,” said Senator Grassley. “The current system for tracking financial relationships isn’t working.”
Universities, which have been left to police their conflicts of interest on their own, are proving to be utterly incapable of doing so, and need to seriously rethink their relationships with pharmaceutical companies.
Dr. Nemeroff is cited in the same statement by Emory as saying that ‘To the best of my knowledge, I have followed the appropriate university regulations concerning financial disclosures.’ Nevertheless, he ‘agreed’ to “voluntarily step down as chairman of the department, effective immediately, pending resolution of these issues.”