21 November 2008

DANCING WITH THE PORCUPINE


GARDINER HARRIS IS A MAN ON A MISSION — one aimed at uncovering the truth about conflicts-of-interest between the drug companies and the psychiatric medicine machine. In the past year, his sterling reporting for the New York Times has given collusion and corruption in psychiatric medicines the kind of intense national scrutiny missing for decades.

It is extremely gratifying to know that my film GENERATION RX — which delves deeply into the issue — will not be left twisting in the wind all alone. Mr. Harris’ reporting confirms yet another basic tenet of my documentary: conflicts-of-interest not only do exist, but they are pervasive, and run throughout the mental health community.

Today Mr. Harris revealed another shocker: the host of National Public Radio’s popular show “The Infinite Mind,” a program that has won in excess of 60 journalism awards, has accepted at least $1.3 million from the drug companies for marketing lectures. And that is only since the year 2000. Mr. Harris reports that Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, the psychiatrist and radio host, “is the latest in a series of doctors and researchers whose ties to drug makers have been uncovered by Senator Charles E. Grassley, a Republican from Iowa.”

During my interviews for GENERATION RX, Professor Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University detailed how funding cuts in Academic research during the Reagan years helped precipitate this “blurring of the line” between academic/scientific research and commercial interests. “What they (the Reagan administration) thought they would do is to create a closer linkage between the corporate world and the academic world,” says Krimsky. “So they created incentives for corporations to invest in universities. At the same time, they kept proclaiming that . . .the federal budget was going to be mean and lean, and that got university administrators very concerned. How were they going to make up the financial downfall in the university budget?”

University presidents, Krimsky pointed out, were now between a rock and an economic hard place, and opted for survival “by creating this new era of commercialized academia.” It soon became acceptable for scientists to have a commercial affiliation while being paid as a basic researcher. This changed the ethos of science, perhaps forever.

In the old days — and by ‘old’ I mean the 1970s — academic and journalistic interests worked hand-in-hand to root out the best of scientific research. Integrity of the information was paramount — in fact, it was the stated goal. During that era, skepticism was a hallmark of the academic mission. It kept what some brilliant Canadian conflict-of-interest researchers called “the premature enthusiasms of industry,” in check.

As Gardiner Harris and other journalists have discovered, those safeguards were abandoned years ago. GENERATION RX puts forth many of the shocking details, but Sheldon Krimsky knew all of this would come to pass, sooner or later.

He tells viewers how there are two rules that operate within the federal advisory committees, the groups responsible for making recommendations on whether any given drug should be available to consumers. “Rule number one says that anyone who has a substantial conflict of interest cannot serve on a federal advisory committee,” Krimsky says with a knowing smirk. “Rule number two says that rule number one can be waived. And rule number one is waived; in some cases the evidence shows 50 percent of the time.”

So there you have it. The very rules written into law to protect the public from conflicts-of-interest actually make allowances for the rules to be broken half the time. “One culture’s pursuit of the truth is supposed to be unencumbered by money,” Krmsky concludes, “and the other culture, for which money is the medium of exchange, is the bottom line.”

The Canadian conflict-of-interest researchers recognized this ethical landmine as the most dangerous and daunting challenge for today’s academic research programs. In fact, they coined the perfect term to decribe what it is like when academia and the pharmaceutical companies are joined at the hip.

They call it, “Dancing with the Porcupine,” a term meant to describe the steep and painful price we all pay when the cherished institutions we rely upon for truth — go awry.



E

Labels: , , , ,

2 Comments:

Anonymous Roni Lipstein said...

Unfortunately, much of that which we regard as "normal" aspects of living in today's society, from the medicines we are told we must have ie: the flu shot, to the educational system, are contrived by the few elitist members of society who are themselves not looking out for the best interests of the people, but in fact their own personal pocket books....WE, the members of society have been so conditioned to BELIEVE all that we are told by these "authority figures" that we have given up our rights to question, and simply take ALL as FACT, when in TRUTH, most government policy is aimed at padding some corporate big wigs pocket books, and TRUEly NOT in "our" best interests. We need to start paying attention, being aware and asking questions.....We need to start listening to our inner voices, which KNOW TRUTH- as a friend of mine has so brilliantly surmised, often times the "easiest & simplest" information available- & yet the very information, due to the mass conditioning for centuries of our society, GLOBALLY, that we ignore....
Let the TRUTH of WE BE,
ONE UNIVERSAL FAMILY
within the Embracing Light of PeaceFull LOVing Serenity & one Fantastical, Amazing, Adventurous, Party'in Journey :)

11:15 AM EST  
Blogger kevinmiller said...

Roni...

Thanks for your words of wisdom. I'm with you 100%!

Be well....

3:19 PM EST  

Post a Comment

<< Home