Friday, March 20, 2009

Risperdal Researcher Promised Drug Maker Positive Results from Clinical Trials

A prominent Harvard psychiatrist promised positive results to Johnson & Johnson before the start of some clinical trials for Risperdal. According to The Wall Street Journal, the revelations regarding Dr. Joseph Biederman came to light in court documents that are part of a lawsuit involving Risperdal and other atypical antipsychotic drugs. While he is not a defendant in the case, Biederman was called as a witness to illustrate the questionable financial ties between drug makers and the research community.

Some of the 2,000 plaintiffs involved in the multi-state lawsuit are children. Risperdal wasn’t approved for use in children until 2007. However, it is known that doctors prescribed the drug off-label for thousands of children years before that. While off-label prescribing is legal, drug companies are legally barred from marketing off-label uses. But according to The Boston Globe, the companies often skirt that prohibition by paying respected “opinion leaders” - usually top experts in their field - to discuss their off-label prescribing experiences at “educational” talks or meetings.

As we reported last November, Biederman was one of those opinion leaders. Biederman has long advocated the use of atypical antipsychotics, like Risperdal, to treat children diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The lawsuit has raised questions about Biederman’s role in convincing Johnson & Johnson’s to fund a center on pediatric bipolar disorder at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital.