Dr. Fred Goodwin, longtime radio host of the NPR program, The Infinite Mind, has reportedly received over $1.3 million in the past seven years from pharmaceutical companies for promotional talks and continuing medical education programs.
The disclosure followed an investigation by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley’s office into Goodwin’s connections to pharmaceutical companies, following a media report in May published by Slate, an online magazine.
Dr. Fred Goodwin is a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health and has been hosting The Infinite Mind on NPR radio stations for over 15 years.
On May 9, Slate published a rebuke of the independence of an episode of the Infinite Mind, a public radio program on mental health, brain and behavior topics. In question was a program devoted to discussing the link between antidepressants and suicide.
But in a bias not disclosed during the program, all four of the experts on the program, including Goodwin himself, have financial ties to the makers of antidepressants. That information was never mentioned to listeners during the program and only finally disclosed because of Slate’s reporting.
The report apparently caught the eye of Sen. Grassley’s office, which has been investigating the failure to disclose financial links between drug makers and researchers.
The New York Times reported today that “Dr. Goodwin’s radio programs have often touched on subjects important to the commercial interests of the companies for which he consults.”
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.”
Unbeknownst to long-time listeners, these are the same drugmakers, by the way, that Dr. Goodwin would adamantly defend during radio programs.
Bill Lichtenstein, the producer of The Infinite Mind, said that he was unaware of Dr. Goodwin’s financial ties, except those related to continuing medical education that Dr. Goodwin sometimes did on behalf of drugmakers.
When contacted today, Mr. Lichtenstein stated that Dr. Goodwin’s contract expressly called for Goodwin to report any potential conflicts of interest to the producer, or any new business relationship as they arose.
Goodwin claims that since he’s been doing this for so long, the rules have changed about ethics reporting and he apparently wasn’t aware of the changes and the need to report this additional income to his employer.
The New York Times further reported that Goodwin “said that he has never given marketing lectures for antidepressant medicines like Prozac, so he saw no conflict with a program he hosted in March titled “Prozac Nation: Revisited” that he introduced by saying, “As you will hear today, there is no credible scientific evidence linking antidepressants to violence or to suicide.””
The Times then went on to note that that same week, Dr. Goodwin earned around $20,000 from Glaxo, which for years suppressed studies showing that its antidepressant, Paxil, increased suicidal behaviors.
Sen. Grassley’s investigations have been so revealing that it has caused every major university and medical institution to reassess how they interact with pharmaceutical companies and how to ensure that all future payments are properly disclosed. But beyond that, some universities are also looking for ways to curb such direct payments to researchers, for fear of the appearance of a conflict of interest (whether one actually exists or not).
The Infinite Mind has won more than 60 journalism awards and has had more than one million listeners in more than 300 radio markets.
According to the Times reporting, Mr. Lichtenstein said that the last original program aired in October, that reruns have been airing since and that “the show is going off the air.”
Sources: The New York Times and wire reports