Emory U. Scientist Penalized for Hidden Payments From Drug Company

December 29, 2008

Just before Christmas, Emory University gave a lump of coal to Charles B. Nemeroff, chair of the psychiatry department at the university’s medical school. After investigating allegations that Dr. Nemeroff had improperly accepted money from drug companies without disclosing it to Emory or to the National Institutes of Health, the university announced that Dr. Nemeroff would relinquish his department-leadership post after 17 years and would observe new restrictions on his outside activities.

In fact, Dr. Nemeroff stepped down as department chair earlier this fall, after investigators for Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, charged that the psychiatrist had collected approximately $2.5-million from pharmaceutical companies from 2000 to 2007 but disclosed only about $1.2-million on forms that he was required to submit to the university. Dr. Nemeroff had been studying the effects of the antidepressant drug Paxil, and the payments largely came from the drug’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline.

The university, in its latest announcement, insisted that the payments to Dr. Nemeroff had not influenced his research findings or compromised patient safety.

However, Emory said it would not submit any NIH or other sponsored grant or contract requests in which Dr. Nemeroff was listed as an investigator or had any other role for a period of at least two years. He is also supposed to submit any requests for compensated speaking engagements to the dean’s office for review. He will retain his position as a professor and will focus on clinical care, teaching, and other academic pursuits. —Josh Fischman