Professor scrutinized for alleged conflict of interest

A GW research professor is under scrutiny for allegedly violating another employer’s conflict of interest policies by receiving at least $1.3 million from drug companies while hosting a public radio program about psychiatric drugs.

The New York Times reported on Nov. 22 that Frederick Goodwin, a research professor of psychiatry, received millions from drug companies for participating in marketing lectures, which was discovered during an investigation conducted by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa. Charles Nemeroff of Emory University and Joseph Biederman of Harvard have also been accused by Grassley of similar conflicts of interest.

Nemeroff was forced to vacate his chairmanship of the Emory psychiatry department and Biederman’s department is undergoing an internal review, but Goodwin still serves as the director of the University’s Psychopharmacology Research Center. The University is not reconsidering its conflict of interest policy with regards to Goodwin, University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said.

Goodwin denied in interviews with The Hatchet this week that any conflict of interest had taken place.

“I frankly do not see these things as a conflict of interest. It was my judgment,” said Goodwin. “Like most experts in my field, I have relationships as a consultant with a number of pharmaceutical companies. I’ve always thought that if you have multiple relationships they sort of cancel each other out.”

Lichtenstein Creative Media, which produced “The Infinite Mind,” Goodwin’s public radio program before it was taken off the air for unrelated financial reasons, has released two statements to the press criticizing Goodwin.

Goodwin’s acceptance of money from drug companies is a “direct violation of his written contract with LCM,” said Lichtenstein Creative Media President Bill Lichtenstein.

Though Goodwin is a GW professor, his supposed violation is not a University issue because Goodwin is employed as an unpaid research professor, said Charles A. Garris Jr., the chairman of the Faculty Senate’s committee on Professional Ethics and Academic Freedom. Research professors are similar to adjunct professors, though they are not required to disclose potential conflict of interests to GW.

“What he does on the outside is not something the University deals with,” Garris said. “He did not violate any of the University rules, whether or not he violated ethical principles is a totally different matter.”

On the University’s Web site, Goodwin, who has worked for GW since May 1994, is still listed as a research professor and director of the University’s Psychopharmacology Research Center. A spokeswoman for the School of Medicine and Health Sciences declined to comment.

Goodwin said New York Times reporter Gardiner Harris misrepresented his long-standing beliefs about psychiatric drugs and involvement with drug companies. He added that a portion of the $1.3 million was a reimbursement for travel expenses.

“Including all the expenses paid in the article was a distortion, because you are not earning money when you are reimbursed,” said Goodwin. “It was really under a million dollars in speaking fees and the rest of it was expenses.”

Calling Goodwin’s response “demonstrably false,” Harris, the author of the New York Times article about Goodwin’s alleged conflict of interest, said he did not misrepresent Goodwin or his failure to disclose information.

“I think most people would see travel expenses to very nice places as a benefit worthy of citing,” Harris said.

Goodwin also maintains he did not violate any contracts with “The Infinite Mind” because Goodwin and Lichtenstein casually talked of Goodwin’s consulting with drug companies and because it was never required for him to disclose information.

“My producer was actually pleased that I had connections because it helped get company funding for ‘The Infinite Mind,’ which was clearly disclosed,” Goodwin said. ” ‘The Infinite Mind’ perhaps got 30 to 50 percent of its funding over the years from drug companies.”

LCM’s president has denied that he knew about Goodwin’s ties to drug companies.

“There was no gray area,” Lichtenstein wrote in a news release. “Fred Goodwin was legally bound to inform LCM of any conflicts of interest. And he didn’t.”

Editor’s Note: After publication, LCM president Bill Lichtenstein refuted a statement made by Frederick Goodwin that “30 to 50 percent” of funding for “The Infinite Mind” came from drug companies. Lichtenstein noted the show’s underwriting policy, which states that no more than 15 percent of the show’s budget can come from any one industry.

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