Frederick Goodwin, who has been under fire from various quarters for apparently failing to disclose pharmaceutical company income to the producer of The Infinite Mind, has responded to my postings about this issue in the comments section of this blog entry. I thought it was an important enough response to feature it as its own post. I print it below in its entirety, and I will respond to his concerns in a separate entry.
I was very saddened and disappointed to read Dr. Carlat’s post. While he and I may disagree on certain issues, I had always assumed that he adhered to minimum scholarly standards in his writings, standards that are expected of professionals with academic backgrounds.
While I was taken aback by the polemical over-the-top language from a colleague with whom I worked in a recent American Psychiatric Association symposium, e.g. “outrageous betrayal of the listeners trust,” I was most profoundly dismayed by statements that were simply not true. (And can easily be shown to be false.) For example, he said that “Goodwin brought together experts with clear financial interest in arguing for the drugs’ [SSRI’s] safety.” First, he ignored what I said in the statement that I had sent him before he posted this blog, namely, that the producer of the Infinite Mind, not the host, reserved for himself full responsibility for the selection of topics, selection of guests, preparation of the script, and even the questions to be asked.
If Dr. Carlat did not believe me, but still wanted to protect his own credibility, he easily could have checked this out with Mr. Lichtenstein, the show's producer, or I would have been happy to send him a copy of the contract which specifies the producer’s total control of content. The fact that he went ahead with his own version of reality, in the face of assertions to the contrary in his possession, (assertions which he apparently did not check out) is reminiscent of what the Times’ Gardiner Harris did in simply ignoring any reality that didn't fit his narrative.
(Incidentally the particular show that Dr. Carlat was discussing was put together in a hurry by Mr. Lichtenstein working alone because he wanted to get something on the air to reassure stations that he could still produce a new show now and then. I didn't even know who the guests were until I arrived at the studio and got the script that had been faxed directly to the radio station. Mr. Lichtenstein later acknowledged that he had not determined in advance that one of the guests was affiliated with a center getting funds from a pharmaceutical company. While this was not disclosed, as it should have been, it was an oversight by a vastly overworked producer. But that's a minor point.)
More damaging to Dr. Carlat's credibility is his loose throwing around of reckless charges referring to “experts with clear financial interests in arguing for the drugs’ [SSRI’s] safety.” Incidentally by referring to Zoloft in this context he seemed not to be aware that this drug has been available in a generic form for some time now. One would like to assume that the author of a pharmacology newsletter would be aware that once drugs become generic there is no further “promotion” by pharmaceutical companies and therefore no “clear financial interests” of anyone. His sweeping statement is more than naïve - it's recklessly damaging the reputation of distinguished academic scholars such as a professor at UCLA. Many of the readers of his blog may not understand how naïve it is to talk about “promotion” of a drug that's been off patent. Dr. Carlat must assume responsibility not only for misleading his readers, but also for recklessly and falsely damaging reputations. To use his phrase, “that's bad journalism.”
But he gets even more reckless. He asserts as fact that “ the segment itself was partially funded by Pfizer, the maker of Zoloft.” Where did he get this information? From a Scientology website? Unless Dr. Carlat can document this, he owes me, the Infinite Mind producer, the guests, and, especially his readers, an apology.
Dr. Carlat’s blog is, to use his own words, a “particularly outrageous betrayal of the [readers] trust,” readers who have a right to assume that his statements reflect the standards associated with professionals in academia.
Frederick K. Goodwin M. D.