It was like something out of the movie Michael Clayton – only with Big Pharma as the villain: a Pfizer drug rep sporting a severe black suit and taking cell phone pictures of students protesting Harvard Medical School’s ties to the drug industry. Staged last October, the Boston gathering was sparsely attended, with a few students holding signs and a petition delivered to an empty office (the dean was out of town).
But the photographer’s appearance was notable enough to merit a story in the New York Times, which eventually led to a U.S. Senate committee investigation.
And so it goes for Harvard Medical School, according to a report in Boston Magazine that reveals Harvard has actually been under increasingly intense scrutiny since 2008, when a series of incidents put a spotlight on the venerable university’s symbiotic – if awkward – relationship with drug companies.
The trouble started that summer, after Dr. Joseph Biederman, a child psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor, was found to have taken more than $1.6 million in payments (which he apparently failed to fully disclose to the school as required) from the maker of a major anti-psychotic drug he’d been prescribing. Continue reading