A few days ago I discussed stonewalling by the American Psychiatric Association over charges that they were partners in a ghostwritten textbook. The issue resonated with many people, including Daniel Carlat, John Nardo, the POGO blog, Alison Bass, Ed Silverman, and others. The APA has not seen its way clear to releasing key documents that might clear up the charges. By stonewalling, the APA just does more damage to its image and credibility. They come across as uninterested in transparency, and they appear to be fighting a rearguard action to defend the indefensible.
What kind of key documents could the APA have released? In our letter last January we suggested several, including the contract involving the American Psychiatric Press, the medical communications company (Scientific Therapeutics Information, Inc. or STI), the grant-giving drug company, the professional writers, and the nominal authors of the allegedly ghostwritten book. What might the contract have told us? Well, it probably looks a lot like this contract, which involves the same medical communications company, the same drug company, and one of the same professional writers, Sally Laden. It was developed right around the same time as the textbook was planned, and it is for a ghostwritten journal article promoting the infamous Paxil Study 329. Look carefully at this contract and you will be in no doubt about who did the essential work of writing and framing the article or about whether the corporation had control over the content. Now ask yourselves, if the contract for the textbook doesn’t look like this then why ever would the APA want to suppress it? That behavior just makes people conclude that the contract for the textbook does look like this contract and that the APA knows it has plenty to hide.
A first principle of cover-ups and stonewalling is that everyone needs to be on the same page with the cover story. When they are not, the façade collapses and the actors come across like the Three Stooges, all heading for the door at the same time. Today, thanks to the sleuthing of Phyllis Vine at Mental Illness Watch, we saw the stooges exposed in their clumsiness. Phyllis Vine discovered material on the corporate website of STI that has them featuring the textbook in the ‘portfolio’ that aims to attract new business to the company. Juxtapose that with the adjacent claim that STI’s skills are to "develop, write, edit, and submit a high-quality article to your target audience." Now is there any doubt about how this game is played? Now is there any doubt about whether the APA has come clean?
Well, if there were any remaining doubt it has been removed by another development: All the materials describing the STI ‘portfolio’ have been removed from the company’s website. Fortunately, Phyllis Vine had captured it here, and so did Daniel Carlat through the Wayback machine. It was picked up some more by Mickey Nardo today. It looks like the APA is going to have more explaining to do.
As the old Groucho Marx line goes, Who you gonna believe, them or your lying eyes?