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Zachary Stowe Disciplined

June 10, 2009

Second Emory doc reveals conflicts

June 10, 2009 — 11:17am ET | By Tracy Staton

Yet another psychiatrist has found his way into Sen. Charles Grassley’s interrogation chamber. And this time, the doctor’s employer moved quickly with a reprimand: Emory University disciplined Dr. Zachary Stowe, a prominent psychiatrist who was being paid by GlaxoSmithKline at the same time he was conducting federal research about the use of antidepressants in pregnant women. Stowe hadn’t disclosed his payments from Glaxo, which amounted to at least $250,000 in 2007 and 2008.

Grassley wrote Emory earlier this month, saying that records he’d obtained from Glaxo–which makes the antidepressant Paxil–detailed those payments, which included fees for at least 95 promotional talks on the drugmaker’s behalf, the Wall Street Journal reports. Meanwhile, Stowe was listed as primary investigator on at least three grants from NIH that involve antidepressant use in pregnant women. NIH requires reporting of conflicts of interest among researchers working under its grants.

In a statement, Emory said Dr. Stowe had come forward to acknowledge his undisclosed conflicts of interest. Perhaps the doctor learned something from the experience of Dr. Charles Nemeroff, another Emory psychiatrist who stepped down as chairman of the department last year after failing to report more than $800,000 received from Glaxo from 2000 to 2006. Nemeroff’s conduct is now under investigation by the HHS inspector general; he remains on Emory’s faculty and maintains that he had acted in good faith to follow the disclosure rules as he understood them.

– read the WSJ story

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Wall Street Journal Story (full text):

Emory Psychiatrist Cited in Conflicts of Interest

By DAVID ARMSTRONG

Emory University has disciplined a prominent psychiatrist who was being paid by an antidepressant maker at the same time he was conducting federal research about the use of such drugs in pregnant women.

The university said its medical school dean issued a letter of reprimand on April 30 to psychiatrist Zachary Stowe related to his “external relationships.” Dr. Stowe was instructed to immediately eliminate conflicts related to current federal grants and was barred from having any conflicts for the next two years.

Dr. Stowe, the director of the Women’s Mental Health Program at Emory, is considered a leading expert on the use of antidepressants in pregnant women. He is listed as the primary investigator on at least three National Institutes of Health grants, beginning in 2003 and continuing through last year, that involve antidepressant use in pregnant women and the effects on children delivered by those women.

The NIH requires universities to manage and report conflicts of interests among researchers with federal grants. In a statement, Emory said Dr. Stowe informed it of “previously unreported activities and has disclosed his failure to abide by Emory policies.” Dr. Stowe, through the university, declined an interview request.

In a letter earlier this month to Emory, Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) said he learned the school had informed the NIH last summer that Dr. Stowe had financial conflicts of interest. The senator said records he obtained from GlaxoSmithKline PLC, the maker of the antidepressant Paxil, indicated Dr. Stowe was paid $154,400 by the drug company in 2007 and $99,300 during the first 10 months of 2008. The totals included payments for at least 95 promotional talks on behalf of the company. A Glaxo spokesman was unavailable for immediate comment.

Dr. Stowe is the second Emory psychiatrist to run into problems related to his work with the drug industry. Charles Nemeroff stepped down as chairman of the psychiatry department last year after an Emory investigation concluded that he failed to report more than $800,000 he received from Glaxo from 2000 to 2006. That matter is now being probed by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Nemeroff remains on the Emory faculty. Last December, he said in a statement that he acted “in good faith to comply with the rules as I understood them to be in effect at the time.”

Write to David Armstrong at david.armstrong@wsj.com

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