Biederman's Finances: He Names His Own Price, and It's $550 an Hour

Last Updated Mar 29, 2009 4:17 PM EDT

Dr. Joseph Biederman, the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital Researcher, has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors for all information he produced in litigation surrounding the alleged off-label promotion of Johnson & Johnson's Risperdal for children, according to the NYT.

This means that the feds will be looking closely at the transcript of a two-day deposition that Biederman sat through in February, when he was grilled on every aspect of his association with J&J, Janssen, Risperdal, and the funding that J&J provided his child psychiatry center.

It was in that deposition that Biederman said he was one rank below God on the Harvard promotion scale.

But the transcripts also contain some interesting nuggets about Biederman's finances and his personality. He has a housekeeper, earns about $400,000 a year, has access to a travel budget of $1 million, names his own price with J&J and gets $550 an hour consulting fees from Deutsche Bank. And the Harvard reference was not the only spontaneous God reference that Biederman came out with -- he also denied he was God at a different point in the questioning.

Here are some highlights from the transcripts, which you can read in the original here and here, at IN VIVO.

On the subject of money:
Q: In the course of carrying out these relationships with all these drug manufacturers, does the relationship always involve them giving you money? A: Most of the time.

...

Q: They pay for your hotel? A: Yes. Q: You stay in a nice hotel? A: Could you define nice?

...

Q: Your standard rate for participating in an advisory board for Janssen is two or three thousand dollars a day? A: Yes, I would say so. Q: Who came up with that number? Was that you or them? A: Me.

...

A: J&J pays less than 10 percent of my total income. It's 5 or 7 thousand dollars a year ... My total income varies depending sources of funding, but it's somewhere around 250.. The entire income comes from Massachusetts General Hospital.

Biederman has income sources in addition to his hospital salary:
A: In 2008 the consultation and talks were about 50 or 60 thousand and the private practice, about 100,000. Q: So about $400,000 in 2008? A: Roughly.
On his consulting fee with Deutsche Bank:
Q: I saw where several years ago in some papers you were charging $550 an hour? A: That sounds correct. Q: What are you charging today? A: Pretty much the same.

Q: ... The title is "Pediatric psychopharmacology project fund, operating expenses" and it's got $1,006,509 and it's got "sundry" by sponsor's name ... could you go to this for travel expenses? A: I could go to this.
Biederman also denied he was God in a series of questions about a Washington Post story that compared him to Galileo. The Post had written: "He likens the criticism he has encountered to the outrage that greated Galileo's challenge to the notion that the Earth was flat."
Q: Is it a correct interpretation of what you said? A: ...I did not compare myself to Galileo. I said the Earth was once flat. The reporter is not quoting me here. It is her interpretation. She could have said that I am comparing myself to God. This is her interpretation of what I said. I said that Earth was once flat. This is what I said. Q: Well, why didn't you compare yourself to God? A: Because I am not God.
On whether an angry encounter with someone was unprofessional:
Q: It's wrong isn't it? A: 'Wrong' is a moral statement. Q: Well, can you make a moral judgment? A: No. That is not part of my repertoire; I am not a moral expert. Q: Do you know the difference between right and wrong? A: I do. Q: Is that wrong or is it right? A: This is not in that category.
On what he knew about how J&J was allegedly promoting Risperdal for kids:
Q: One of the things you wanted to study was the efficacy of Risperdal in preschoolers, right? A: Yes. Q: And how old are preschool kids? A: Four to six. Q: And what age range was Risperdal approved for at that time? A: It was approved to my recollection for individuals older than 18.

...

Q: Do you know how much Risperdal is used in kids? A: No. Q: You have no idea? A: No. Risperidone is used in adults as well, as you know. Q: Sure. Would it surprise you to learn that over 20 percent of all the Risperdal that's used is used in kids? A: I have no idea how much risperidone is used in children. Q: Do you consider yourself in any way responsible for that? A: No. Q: Is it appropriate in your mind for Risperdal to target pediatricians to try to get them to use Risperdal in their patients? A: As I mentioned before, pediatricians are more abundant than child psychiatrists. So in many communities there is no access to child psychiatry. If the condition is found to be morbind, devastating and impairing and if medicines to treat it were found safe and effective, the deployment of the treatment could be done by primary care physicians.

...
He did admit that off-label promotion was wrong:
Q: In 2002 pediatricians treated people for whom the use of Risperidone was off-label, right? A: The use of risperidone for children in 2002 was off-label. Q: So in your opinion ... was it appropriate for Janssen to be doing this, to be targeting doctors who only treat patients for whom the use of Risperdal is off-label? A: It is not appropriate.

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