The invitation of Professor Charles Nemeroff by the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, London to give the opening lecture at the prestigious opening of a new research centre has caused fury within the profession, including members of the Institute.
Professor Nemeroff, who is considered a leading authority on the treatment of depression, was involved in a scandal in 2008 in which he received $1.2 million in undeclared payments from major drug company GlaxoSmithKline, and which involved a federal investigation into his activities.
At the time, Nemeroff was undertaking a study into drugs produced by GlaxoSmithKiline on behalf of the National Institute of Health whilst working at Emory University, Atlanta, USA, and having been contracted to limit external payments to $10,000 per year.
The invitation by the Institute of Psychiatry has prompted strong criticism of the decision by a group of UK psychiatrists. They claim that the relationship between Nemeroff and GlazoSmithKline is
“…one of the starkest examples of the financial corruption of medicine through its overly cosy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry”.
“Many medical institutions have recognised this relationship is unhealthy and is bringing the profession into disrepute. We find it surprising therefore that the Institute of Psychiatry has seen fit to invite Nemeroff to deliver this important lecture,”
The decision of the Institute has also prompted other prominent members of the profession to write to the British Medical Journal.
Honarary Senior Lecturer at the Institute wrote that the decision to invite Nemeroff showed how psychiatric academe “…sails blithely on as if such revelations beg no broader questions about its associations and supposed scientific independence.”
In responding to the criticism, the Institute told The Independent newspaper that they were ‘aware of concerns’ and said:
“We have been informed by Professor Nemeroff that he will not be presenting any research that was funded by commercial companies or affected by commercial implications. Obviously, he will be declaring any relevant conflicts of interest prior to his lecture.”
The profession of psychiatry is often considered to have too cosy a relationship with drug companies, and is often seen as the only medical profession that experiments on real-world patients through ‘drug therapy’.
To invite someone who has been involved in accepting a major payment (bribe?) from one of the biggest drug companies in the world to open a prestigious new centre is not going to enhance the image of the profession.
Additionally, the motives and credibility of Nemeroff must come into question when he is willing to engage in such unethical, and deceitful activities.