Fred Goodwin Loses NPR Gig Over GlaxoSmithKline Ties

Last Updated Nov 21, 2008 3:54 PM EST

NPR says it will cancel the psychology show The Infinite Mind from its satellite radio service following a report in the New York Times that host Fred Goodwin took $1.3 million from drug companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and didn't declare that to his listeners. The news will not come as a surprise to BNET readers who followed our brief series on antidepressants earlier this year. Following that series, we received a comment from Eli Lilly countering criticism that the company had funded Infinite Mind during a period when it broadcast shows on suicide and depression (Lilly makes antidepressants Prozac and Cymbalta). Here's what Lilly told BNET:
With regard to funding provided to "The Infinite Mind," the Lilly Foundation has made unrestricted grants to The Fund for Independent Media to support this public radio series. These grants are given with the understanding that Lilly will have no editorial control over program content, which is in line with "The Infinite Mind" guidelines that create a firewall between funding and editorial decision-making.
What is surprising, however, is that the issue of bias on Infinite Mind isn't new. Slate reported on it back in May. Here's the killer section:
In addition to the show's unrestricted grants from Lilly, the host, Goodwin, is on the board of directors of Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, an industry-funded front, or "Astroturf" group, which receives a majority of its funding from drug companies. CMPI President Peter Pitts was one of Goodwin's three guests for [the show] "Prozac Nation." -- Pitts has another title that might have been relevant to The Infinite Mind; he is the senior vice president for global health affairs at the PR firm Manning Selvage & Lee, which represents Eli Lilly Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and more than a dozen other pharmaceutical companies. Yet on the show, Pitts was identified only by his title as "a former FDA official."
The bias at Infinite Mind went back years. According to the Times:
In a program broadcast on Sept. 20, 2005, Dr. Goodwin warned that children with bipolar disorder who are left untreated could suffer brain damage, a controversial view. "But as we'll be hearing today," Dr. Goodwin reassured his audience, "modern treatments -- mood stabilizers in particular -- have been proven both safe and effective in bipolar children."
That very day, GlaxoSmithKline paid Dr. Goodwin $2,500 to give a promotional lecture for its mood stabilizer drug, Lamictal, at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla. Indeed, Glaxo paid Dr. Goodwin more than $329,000 that year for promoting Lamictal, records given Congressional investigators show.
The news came out because of Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley's probe of drug company funding of psychiatrists. (See back story here.) That probe has so far focused on universities. Goodwin is a psychiatrist. Grassley is pushing for a bill that would require disclosure of drug company funding of doctors; it has been supported in a piecemeal fashion by the industry thus far.