Researcher Accuses Colleagues of Misconduct

A University of Pennsylvania researcher claims his colleagues put their names on a Big Pharma-financed study of the anti-depressant Paxil, sight unseen.

Jul 13, 2011
Tia Ghose

ParoxetineWIKIMEDIA COMMONS

University of Pennsylvania researcher Jay Amsterdam says his colleagues—including the chair of the psychiatry department—allowed their names to be included on a 2001 study of the anti-depressant Paxil (paroxetine) that he says was actually written by a communications company ghostwriter hired by the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, Nature reports. Amsterdam was a co-investigator, but says he was excluded from data analysis and review. He says that while his colleagues were also excluded from the analysis and writing of the paper, their names added credibility to the study, which he claims exaggerated the effectiveness of the drug for treating bipolar disorder and downplayed its side effects.

Amsterdam submitted a letter, along with relevant emails to buttress his assertions, to the Office of Research Integrity last week (July 8). In a rebuttal, two of the researchers told Nature that they had written an initial draft of the study.

Amsterdam is also calling for the ouster of University of Pennsylvania President Amy Guttman from President Obama’s bioethics committee, faulting her handling of accusations of ghostwriting on a 2003 editorial by Psychiatry Department Chair Dwight Evans, which were ultimately dropped. On Monday (July 11), the school agreed to investigate Amsterdam’s allegations.