Federal prosecutors: Psychiatrist paid to tout off-label antidepressant use

Federal prosecutors have unveiled a case against pharmaceutical company Forest Laboratories, charging that the company illegally marketed antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro for use in children.

In a newly-unsealed complaint, Forest is accused of paying kickbacks to doctors in exchange for prescribing the drugs, including high-end meals and cash payments disguised as grants and consulting fees. They also accuse Forest of misleading doctors and the public at large by failing to disclose results of a negative study.

One doctor featured in the complaint is Dr. Jeffrey Bostic, director of school psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, who prosecutors say gave more than 350 talks and presentations in 28 states sponsored by Forest between 1999 and 2006. Many of those addressed the pediatric prescribing of Celexa and Lexapro, a use not approved by the FDA.

Prosecutors concluded that Bostic, who cooperated with the investigation, was paid more than $750,000 between 2000 and 2006 for making those presentations.

Ultimately, the federal complaint targets Forest, not Dr. Bostic, but these disclosures are particularly awkward for him and Mass General, given that the compensation paid by industry to physicians is being scrutinized closely by academic institutions and Congress of late.

To learn more about the complaint:
- read this piece in The Boston Globe