Five months ago, a controversy erupted when an unusual example of alleged ghostwriting was disclosed involving a textbook on treating psychiatric disorders that was apparently written by a pair of well-known academics,Charles Nemeroff and Alan Schatzberg. They were also regular speakers for GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the Paxil antidepressant and hired a company to help write this book ( back story).
The book, entitled “Recognition and Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: A Psychopharmacology Handbook for Primary Care,” was published by the American Psychiatric Association. The APA, however, denied there was any evidence that ghostwriting occurred, although American Psychiatric Publishing ceo Ron McMillen maintained, at the time, that he was unaware of a plan that Scientific Therapeutics Information had given Nemeroff an outline for his approval.
In the aftermath of the disclosure, which was made by the Project on Government Oversight and then reported by The New York Times (read here and here), the APA continued to insist ghostwriting did not take place and denied any wrongdoing. Its official house organ, Psychiatric News, wrote in January to note the Times subsequently ran a correction to its initial headline and that APP has "extensive files, proofs, and manuscript versions of the book that clearly demonstrate the active involvement of Schatzberg and Nemeroff in every stage of the book's development."
And McMillen is quoted as saying “I've seen the files, and you can clearly see author involvement. Schatzberg and Nemeroff have margin notes in all of the galleys with their initials throughout all of the various iterations. We also had the book peer reviewed by more people than is routine. The peer-review comments were sent to [STI], and every single one of them was incorporated. The writer for STI was clearly working for us. To call that ghostwritten is just absurd" (see this).
However, three academics challenged the APA disavowal and wrote a letter to the APA to call attention to details that may have been omitted from the discussion, such as what they referred to as "partial qualifications of the original reports that appeared in The New York Times and in the letter to NIH from POGO." They asked the APA to release relevant materials, such as contract, to clear up any confusion. The trio include Bernard Carroll, professor and chairman emeritus at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center; Robert Rubin, professor and vice chair at the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; and Leemon McHenry, of the Department of Philosophy at California State University.
But their January 28letter, which POGO posted today, was ignored for eight weeks. Instead, Psychiatric News executive editor Catherine Brown sent an email on March 22 washing her hands of the affair. "The issue you address...has been covered extensively in January already by the NewYork Times article, the New York Times’ revisions of the article and in Psychiatric News.Therefore, we will not be printing additional information about it at this time."
The response, not surprisingly, has generated outrage from POGO, and calls for full disclosure from a couple of well-known bloggers - psychiatrist Danny Carlat and journalist Alison Bass. As for the academics who implored the APA to release the material, one of them - Bernard Carroll - writes in his own blog that the APA is "stonewalling."