In response to:
Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption from the January 15, 2009 issue
The New York Review has received a letter from a legal representative of Dr. Alan F. Schatzberg objecting to the use of the word “corruption” in the headline and text of a review by Marcia Angell, M.D., of several books that are critical of the financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and medical researchers [NYR, January 15]. The letter contends that, in its use of the word “corruption,” the review may be read as implying that Dr. Schatzberg engaged in “bribery” or “other similar dishonest dealings.”
We believe Dr. Schatzberg’s legal representative is mistaken. The word “corruption” did not appear in the vicinity of the one brief paragraph that mentioned Dr. Schatzberg in the midst of a long article. Moreover, The New York Review and Dr. Angell did not state or imply that he engaged in any unlawful conduct. The article specifically said that Stanford University had stated that it saw, as Dr. Angell put it, “nothing amiss” in Dr. Schatzberg’s own record. We feel sure readers would not have drawn from Dr. Angell’s article the conclusion that Dr. Schatzberg had engaged in unlawful dealings such as those mentioned by his legal representative; and we would deeply regret it if any readers had such a mistaken impression.
More fundamentally, readers would not, in fact, interpret the word “corruption,” as it appeared in the title and final paragraph of the review, in the manner that the letter suggests. In context, the word “corruption” summarized the opinion (set forth in some of the books mentioned in the review) that, as a general matter, the growing financial dependence of the medical profession on the pharmaceutical industry is profoundly detrimental to sound public, medical, and scientific policy.
We invited Dr. Schatzberg to submit a letter to the editor explaining in his own words his disagreement with the review, but he has not chosen to do so. The New York Review and Dr. Angell regret that a disagreement has arisen with Dr. Schatzberg on this matter.
We have received many letters about Dr. Angell’s review and will publish several of them—including one from Stanford University’s General Counsel in support of Dr. Schatzberg—in the next issue.