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Friday, July 10, 2009

Dr. Charles Nemeroff and Emory University's Culture of Corruption

Imagine if a school principal insisted year after year that their school use textbooks made only by one company. even though there were plenty of textbook companies out there. Imagine that this principal defended this company's textbooks and made public statements about how valuable they were in the classroom. Imagine if it is later revealed after more than a decade that while the principal was demanding that this company's textbooks be used at their school the company was paying the principal money to give speeches, advertise for them, and promote their product. Furthermore, it's revealed that the principal didn't even disclose a substantial portion of this income on their taxes. It's not hard to imagine how we would all perceive the principal. Now, imagine if the school board did remove that principal but allowed them to keep another cushy six figure job in the school's administration department even though these revelations came out. In this case, you'd not only determine that the principal was corrupt but you'd also likely conclude that so was the school's entire administration.

For more than a decade, the scenario I just described played out in a much more obscene way between Dr. Charles Nemeroff and Emory University. At the end of last year Senator Chuck Grassley finished an investigation of Dr. Charles Nemeroff. The conclusions were clear. For years, Dr. Nemeroff wrote positive reviews of drugs from companies like Cyberonics, Glaxo Smith Kline, and Pfizer all the while receiving speaking fees, advertising fees, and other gifts of monies from these companies. All toll, Dr. Nemeroff received about $2.6 million. While he wrote all these positive reviews, he never disclosed his financial relationship with these pharmaceutical companies. In other words, while writing about positively about a drug made by Pfizer, Dr. Nemeroff never disclosed that he was receiving money from Pfizer. Furthermore, emails and other correspondences revealed that Emory stonewalled the investigation and mislead the media about their involvement and Dr. Nemeroff's culpability. Finally, and most damning, once Grassley's investigation wrapped, Emory did remove Dr. Nemeroff from head of his department, Psychiatry, but allowed him to stay on as a professor earning six figures. In fact, Grassley uncovered documents that showed that Emory knew about Nemeroff's conflicts for years and did nothing.

The question must be asked, why would Emory allow Dr. Nemeroff to stay on after all this damning evidence was revealed. In the early, 1980's, Dr. Nemeroff earned a reputation in the field of psychopharmocology. He traded on this reputation by getting into bed with the drug companies and getting very wealthy by essentially endorsing their products when he was supposed to be giving objective analysis of them. For at least the last eight years, Emory University knew what he was up to and did nothing. In fact, the only reason that Dr. Nemeroff was even removed as head of the Department is because Grassley's investigation was so damning that they had to do something.

So, the key question is, why did Emory allow all this and why did they keep him on as a professor after all of this was revealed. After all, Dr. Nemeroff is now toxic in his field. He isn't going to get any grants or any money from anyone. He is essentially worthless to the university and his presence only reminds the world of the stain of this scandal.

To understand the answers to these questions, we must put all of this into context. I have written extensively about the scandal at Grady Hospital. That hospital is staffed overwhelmingly by Emory University professors. I stand by my reporting and I believe my series of exposes leave no doubt that Grady Hospital has a systemic culture of corruption in which Emory University plays a critical role. (it is too long to prove in this post so I encourage you to go this link and read all attached links there if you aren't convinced)

I have identified 15 whistle blowers that had psychiatric evaluations done after they blew the whistle on corruption at Grady Hospital. Each and everyone of these evaluations was done by someone at Emory's Psychiatric department. (how's that for INDEPENDENT) That's the department that Dr. Charles Nemeroff ran until late last year. At least four were done by Nemeroff himself though as head of the department he would have been in a position to know and direct each evaluation. Each evaluation painted the whistle blower as having some sort of psychological problem. At least three, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Diane Owens, and Jim Murtagh, were eventually paid off and silenced by Emory University. It goes without saying that a psychiatric evaluation, especially one by someone as respected as Nemeroff was then, would devastate the career of any academic.

The most significant evaluation was done on Dr. Jim Murtagh. That's because for several years Dr. Murtagh was a part of the Conflicts of Interests committee at Emory University. In fact, the conflicts were so obscene and brazen that medical students doing their psychiatry rounds would be shown promotional videos by the likes of Pfizer in which Dr. Nemeroff appeared to pitch whatever drug he happened to be praising at the time. This group discovered the very conflicts that Dr. Nemeroff was later damned by in the Grassley investigation. Furthermore, Dr. Murtagh later blew the whistle on serious corruption at Grady Hospital to the National Institute of Health. After he blew the whistle, Dr. Nemeroff personally evaluated Dr. Murtagh. (talk about an ironic conflict of interest) In fact, this article describes how Dr. Murtagh was ordered to see a psychiatrist that Emory had chosen. The evaluation described Murtagh as unstable and dangerous and as he (Murtaugh) says in the article.

I will never get an academic job again. . . . My life and dreams have been uprooted.

The article goes on to point this out.

Jan Gleason, assistant vice president in Emory's office of communications, said the administration cannot comment on Murtagh's case. She also declined to comment on what procedures the university uses to determine when a mandatory psychiatric examination is warranted, when the administration began using such exams, or how many exams it has ordered. According to an account in the Emory student newspaper, Emory Wheel, in the last three years the administrators ordered five tenured faculty, who were critics of administration policies, to undergo psychiatric examination as a prelude to breaking their tenure and firing them.

We wouldn't know much of this because Dr. Murtagh was silenced, except State Senator David Shafer fought to release the documents related to Murtagh's case because of his own ongoing investigation of corruption at Grady Hospital and Emory University.

So, in fact, Dr. Nemeroff's case is much more than merely a corrupt psychiatrist getting into bed with drug companies. In fact, you could think of Dr. Nemeroff as a hired psychiatric hitman against any threats to Emory. For years, Emory University corrupted Grady Hospital. Whenever a professor stepped forward to blow the whistle, Emory would send in Dr. Nemeroff to call them crazy and thus smear them and thus ruin their reputation. For this, Emory looked the other way while he corrupted his profession. That's why they can't fire him. He knows too much. They're in bed together in the corruption.


Kate said...

Incredible! Mike, what was the "conflict of interest" committee thinking? Looking at records, I find that the committee was convened by none other than Claudia Adkison, the same assistant Deane who lied to Senator Grassley.

That very committee was headed by Dr. Wayne Alexander, who perhaps had the biggest conflicts of interest of any Emory faculty. Dr. Alexander used Georgia biotech start up funds to found Atherogenics, a company that touted a failed drug. After a very flawed clinical trial, senior officers cashed out and made huge amounts of money. Then, Atherogenics went bankrupt, losing University, Georgia, taxpayer and other money.

Former Georgia Senator Charles Walker (now in jail for ten years) was a consistent backer of funding for biotech companies including Atherogenics.

Do you think that Grassley will now look at the fox guarding the conflict of interest henhouse at Emory?

Kate said...

Mike, it gets deeper. You have written about Judge Shoob. Her husband is the lawyer who represented Atherogenics, and possibly Wayne Alexander, in the bankruptcy proceeding. Could the close tie between her husband and Emory and Alexander provide an explanation for some judicial findings you have written about?

mike volpe said...

Wayne Alexander was head of the conflicts of interest committee I referenced. Charles Walker was a former state senator in Georgia who was convicted of 128 felonies in relation to corruption at Grady and beyond.

I believe that Grassley is involved in investigating Professor Stowe, another emory prof that had a conflict, though Senators never comment publicly on ongoing investigations.

Anonymous said...

Nemeroff and Stowe may just be the tip of the iceberg. Looks like higher ups have made much more money. The conflict of interest committee appears to exist only to cover up conflicts, not to police them. If Emory were serious about solving the problems, woudn't they be demanding that the whistleblowers come forward and tell all they know, so that things can be corrected? Seems that Emory's main goal is to silence critics.

This is the opposite of what Emory told Grassley. Emory claimed that Nemeroff was a "bad apple", and that Emory would clean up. Now, it looks like it is businsess as usual at Emory.

I imagine that Senator Grassley does not like to be misled. Earlier Emory statements to the Senator were insincere. After being caught once, twice, many times, it is time for the NIH and Congress to get tough on Emory.

mike volpe said...

Of course, it's the tip of the ice berg, and I have documented just how deep it is.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I do not recall seeing documentation that Charles Nemeroff concealed any of his income from the IRS. Rather, Senator Grassley determined that Nemeroff failed to report a large amount of his Pharma money to Emory as required by NIH regulations. Maybe a simple correction is in order here.

mike volpe said...

I've taken it down, though that was my understanding. It was only a sentence, and Nemeroff has been damned and so truthfulness is paramount. I appreciate the unpaid editing.

Nancy said...

Hey! I just read in your article that Dr. Wayne Alexander is the man who ordered Dr. Murtagh off campus with security guards and sent him for the forced fitness exam. Alexander and Nemeroff ganged up in this?

Both laughed all the way to the bank, as they both collected pharmaceutical and/or biotech money. Now, the judge's husband is a lawyer representing Alexander and possibly Emory? This is too much of an old boy's network. How deeply is Emory's lawyer involved?

The difference is that Nemeroff has paid a price, but others have not. Why has the AJC not put this together?

mike volpe said...

The AJC hasn't put a lot of stuff together. Look at how many former Emory grads work at the AJC, it's plenty.

In my opinion, the AJC is in on the corruption, and I think that story proves it.

Anonymous said...

Mike, why doesn't the judge put an end to all of this? This is the same judge who had to recuse herself in an important mortgage fraud case, again because her husband owned a part of the property at issue.

The judge's husband is active in biotech development, pharmaceutical development, downtown development, Emory issues etc. A real power couple. It must be hard for her to be impartial. The AJC seems to be missing the story of the insider court system too.

Is there justice in Georgia?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Charles Nemeroff has been recruited for and is seriously being considered for a position of chief of a recently planned Brain Research Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

alotstuff said...

nice blog and have lots of stuff here.........

Anonymous said...

Does Dr.Nemeroff report to Provost Earl Lewis or to President James Wagner at Emory?

Anonymous said...

What is happening in this case: