Friday, September 18, 2009

Paul Thacker: The Tenacious Hero of Reform

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Or so said Margaret Mead, and I believe it's true.

One rarely gets the chance to meet such people, but on September 3, 2008, I was sitting in a popular Washington, D.C. Mexican restaurant blocks from the Capitol building, chatting with Paul Thacker. Few have heard of him, but many have heard about his boss, Charles Grassley, the senator from Iowa who has crusaded for transparency in industry-academic relationships. As Thacker and I ate enchiladas and chatted about Grassley's investigations, it became clear that Thacker himself was the spark behind the blizzard of letters and inquiries that ultimately exposed a slew of cozy arrangements between academics and the drug industry.

Now, Meredith Wadman has published this fascinating profile of Paul Thacker in the journal Nature, and it is required reading for anyone interested in the Man Who Brought Down Nemeroff, and more generally in the process of political reform. I won't even quote from it because I want to encourage you to read the article yourself (a subscription is required to read the whole thing). And for more on Thacker, check out this PBS documentary based on his earlier investigative reporting on the manipulated science sponsored by the tobacco industry and by deniers of global warming.

8 comments:

Sara said...

I love people like Thacker. They're role models for those of us who want to expose the truth and bring about change. Thanks for introducing us to him.

Anonymous said...

Senator Grassley misrepresented the "death panel" propaganda in his public comments about the health reform debate. Given his involvment in health care issues for years, I find it hard to believe that he perpetuated the lies about the "death panel" unintentionally.

Stephany said...

Thanks for this post, I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Funny. My residents have come up to me on a number of occasions and said "Dr. (Past President of APA) says that Grassley is a Scientologist! She said that's the only reason why this is happening to us!" Yeah, right. Dream on.

Anonymous said...

This Paul Thacker? That's impressive. Scientists always seem to put the anti-psychiatry crowd into the same backwards camp as the climate deniers. This man proves differently.

He was also disinvited from a Tufts conference.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Carlat: I am surprised you allowed the Anonymous "Death Panel" blog entry and did not delete it as "off topic." The poster attempts to denigrate Thacker's contributions to ferreting out health care fraud via a paranoid, Palin-esque and Right-Wing smear. We have enough of this going on at town hall meetings. Now, the Carlat Blog as well?????

Anonymous said...

Right wing smear? If you bothered to Google "Grassley death panel", you would have known that Grassley perpetuated/endorsed/repeated the "death panel" myth about the health reform proposals. He's a Republican from Iowa. Be careful whom you label as heroes and honest/honorable in politics.

Anonymous said...

Has Paul Thacker been involved in the "Death Panel" nonsense?