Barry Blackwell: Corporate Corruption in the Psychopharmaceutical Industry

Mark Kramer’s reply to Samuel Gershon’s comment


I am grateful to Professor Gershon for summarizing and amplifying my chapter on Barry Blackwell’s essay.   It is mostly right, but my own summary differs a bit as follows:  At the outset Key Opinion Leaders [KOLs] had been arguably worthy academicians, extolled for significant publications, creativity, communication skills. Their awards and honors represented service to their peers, academic institutions, and professional organizations.  At the outset, Big Pharma only tempted these KOLs to become product reps (through promising to glorify and pay them).   The actual contagion was not corruption of, or by, Industry. Rather it was the decadence of professionals who volitionally betrayed their professional oaths of integrity.  This had been insidious.  Big Pharma marketers would have had little initial traction, beyond advertising and drug reps, had KOLs simply said “No!”  

None of us are strangers to the tempting gifts of Pharma.  Received as a medical student amongst my prized possessions are a CIBA-GEIGY textbook of Frank Netter’s illustrations, and a rubber model of the brainstem.   However strong my gratitude to Pharma for these favors, it never included becoming their drug rep.    Early in my career at Jefferson, I’d been approached to be a speaker for Janssen.  This would have been good income for my young family. However, I insisted on using my own slides, not theirs.  Needless to say, my industry sponsored speaking career was short-lived.   Sam would be right to say that Industry is now audaciously corrupt all on its own (via lobbying), i.e., without much need from academia.  

Sam importantly underscores the contributions of journal editors to today’s scientific quagmire.  Fecklessly dreading industry litigation or loss of revenue, they are destroying communication in science.   I also heartily agree that “pay to play” publishing rags have opened a can of worms.  These publications further burden readers with the task of discerning garbage/marginal progress, from potentially important scientific advances.  Note that the pay to play journals only take in relatively minor revenue (< $100 mm per year) compared with the big cartels (Elsevier, Thomson Reuters, Springer, Wiley) take in billions each year.   Thus, the primary target to overhaul is the Big Publishing Industry.  This alone warrants an essay. 



Esposito, J. (2013). A Snapshot of the Scientific and Technical Publishing Market. The Scholarly Kitchen,

Gupta, K. (2015). Opinion: Pay-to-Play Publishing. The Scientist,

Knox, R. (2013). Some Online Journals Will Publish Fake Science, For A Fee. Shots: Health news from NPR,


Mark Kramer

November 17, 2016