may well be untreatable…

Posted on Wednesday 28 July 2010

“Dr. Nemeroff is so compromised by now that he has lost effectiveness as a front man for Pharma. Indeed, he is so toxic that he now glows in the dark.”
-Bernard Carroll

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has decided to give the public another month to weigh in on the tightened financial reporting requirements that it proposed in May for its extramural investigators. The Department of Health and Human Services, NIH’s parent agency, announced on Friday that the public comment period for the proposed rules changes, which was to have ended on 20 July, has been extended to 19 August. Among other things, NIH is asking commentators whether it should "clarify" how the new rules would apply when an investigator changes institutions.

The request is significant because it follows this June article in the Chronicle of HIgher Education documenting how psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff evaded a two-year ban on applying for NIH grants by taking a new job as chair of psychiatry at the University of Miami. Nemeroff had been demoted by Emory University in Atlanta and banned from seeking NIH grants for “at least” two years, after he was found to have flouted financial reporting rules by failing to declare at least $1.2 million in drug company payments.

But, as the Chronicle reported, last summer Tom Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, assured Pascal Goldschmidt, the dean of medicine at Miami, that the ban would not apply to Nemeroff should he move to Miami. Nemeroff took up his new position in Florida last December. The proposed rules changes apply to NIH-funded investigators at extramural institutions and include a $5,000 minimum threshold for reporting financial interests in any single publicly traded company. Any interest in a privately held company is considered reportable. You can read our coverage of the changes that NIH is proposing here.
Sometimes, things take on a life of their own – run by themselves. For years, Dr. Charlie Nemeroff was in the background of everything Psychiatric around Emory or Atlanta. The residents sounded a lot like biochemists and meetings seemed to be mostly about some new way to think about pharmacology. And there was an aura that somehow things weren’t on the up and up. That changed a little in 2004, when Nemeroff had to step down from an editorship. But then came the 2008 revelations that had him defrocked as chairman of the department for the same kind of offenses. I thought it was over finally – the end of a bad era. But then, all of a sudden, he was off to Miami as chairman there. It was depressing. Like he was going to run the same show over again.

But it’s beginning to look as if his hubris is just calling attention to him in a very negative way. I reported that he’s the featured speaker at the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association Summer CME Meeting. That’s amazing to me. A guy who was publicly shamed for getting rich from CME presentations that were really drug company ads was picked for our C.M.E. speaker? What were they thinking? But it looks as if there’s going to be a low turnout. The GPPA is sending out last minute calls, offering discounts and advertising other speakers. Maybe he’s finally lost his charm.

And the NIH is going out of its way to make allowances for people to suggest ways to plug the Nemeroff loophole – get banned from applying for NIH money in one place, just change places. He’s getting a lot of Press, but it’s nothing good. NIMH Director Tom Insel and Miami Dean Pascal Goldschmidt have taken some real hits themselves for involving themselves in Charlie’s wheelings and dealings, and I expect anyone else will think long and hard before jumping on the Nemeroff band-wagon after all this noise. While it may sound like I’m just chortling over someone else’s misfortune [and maybe I am a bit], I’m also feeling relieved that Nemeroff’s brand of racketeering has run out of steam. I call it racketeering because that’s what it is – selling out to corporate interests instead of keeping medicine focused on patient care and safety.

Whatever happened, he just kept doing it over and over – even when he was censured, even when he lost his job, even by trying to sneak around the rules by calling in favors. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, then Charlie Nemeroff is insane. He’s afflicted with the flim-flam man insanity. It may well be untreatable, even with his  expensive designer drugs…

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