Sunday, June 8, 2008

Failed Government

With the Reagan-inspired government retreat from its watchdog responsibilities, we now find another tragic example of business run amok: the Harvard child psychiatrist responsible for a 40-fold increase in the diagnosis of bipolar disorders and the prescribing of powerful antipsychotic medicines has been on the take.

Thanks to Senator Grassley, one of the few sane Republicans in Congress, who's snooping around has discovered a gross violation of protocol for university researchers.

In a telling paragraph, the New York Times writes:

In the last 25 years, drug and device makers have displaced the federal government as the primary source of research financing, and industry support is vital to many university research programs. But as corporate research executives recruit the brightest scientists, their brethren in marketing departments have discovered that some of these same scientists can be terrific pitchmen.

Though Dr. Biederman defends his scientific integrity, and he may well be a researcher of great integrity, the whole things smells. Money talks, as we all know, and it's a rare person who can avoid the terrible influences of money.

What belies Dr. Biederman's claim is that none of this income was reported for years, and only under the watchful eye of Senator Grassley has this come to light. At least 1.6 million has been put into Dr. Biederman's pockets; other researchers received similar amounts.

In another critical paragraph, the Times writes:

Doctors have known for years that antipsychotic drugs, sometimes called major tranquilizers, can quickly subdue children. But youngsters appear to be especially susceptible to the weight gain and metabolic problems caused by the drugs, and it is far from clear that the medications improve children’s lives over time, experts say.

In other words, no one knows if this stuff really works.

There may well be issues for children, but I suspect other causes - like the thousands of untested compounds flooding the food chain and tainting our air and water.

Part of the solution is likely to be found in cleaning up our environment and eliminating the junk in our food and drink.

Whatever ...

Perhaps laws weren't broken by Dr. Biederman - although that remains to be seen - but questions about integrity and honesty are now before us.

I'm no starry-eyed dreamer, but I know that we have to recover the positive role of government to work in partnership with business and education. Of the three, government is in the best position to ask critical questions about funding and oversight, and perhaps someday soon we may see our large universities regain some of their integrity (by the way, how about Japanese gang lords getting liver transplants at UCLA?).

Thanks to Reagan-inspired economics, we deluded ourselves into thinking that big business was our best friend and could be trusted to deliver quality of life for us, while monitoring its own ethics. Ya sure, youbetcha!

If you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in.

Hats off to Senator Grassley.