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Famous Indian psychiatrist banned in UK

Indian psychiatrist Tonmoy Sharma banned in UK for conducting illegal tests on mentally ill patients, and fudging credentials.

2 April, 2008

A prominent psychiatrist from Assam, India, who frequently appeared as an expert on BBC, has been banned from practicing in the United Kingdom after he was found guilty of lying about his academic qualifications as well as conducting unethical drug tests on mentally ill patients.

Tonmoy Sharma, 42, who was a senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, has been found to be a fraud who called himself a “professor” while records show that he had never completed a PhD thesis, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper has reported.

Despite being unqualified, Sharma – who was registered at the Clinical Neuroscience Research Centre in Dartford, Kent, regularly used the letters PhD after his name and succeeded in cheating not only Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) but also some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies.

The high-profile psychiatrist appeared on the BBC2 series Mind of a Murderer in 2000 and often turned up as an expert commentator on BBC News Online stories.

The Fitness to Practise panel of Britain’s General Medical Council found Sharma guilty of “serious failings of personal integrity” after hearing that he recruited mentally ill patients to test drugs without seeking proper approval.

Andrew Popat, chairman of the Fitness to Practise panel, was quoted as telling Tonmoy Sharma, "Your persistent and wide-ranging dishonesty and untruthfulness, spanning a number of years, together with your lack of insight, is so serious that it is fundamentally incompatible with your continuing to be a registered medical practitioner.”

Popat continued to tell Sharma, "You described yourself as ‘Tonmoy Sharma MD PhD’ on websites, including that of a company in which you had a controlling interest. You had not been awarded a PhD. The panel has found your conduct in wrongly representing that you had such a respected qualification to be dishonest and unprofessional.”

However, Popat added that Tonmoy Sharma, author of several books on mental illness, had “contributed significantly towards the advancement of medical science” and was highly regarded by his colleagues.

Nevertheless, after a hearing that lasted 10 months, the General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise panel found Sharma guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck him off the medical register.

The panel found that Tonmoy Sharma, who trained in India, acted unprofessionally in relation to five major studies between 1997 and 2003, involving four leading pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly and the Janssen Research Foundation, the Telegraph reported.

Sharma was found guilty of having misled the pharmaceutical companies when he chose to use identical patients in different studies, subjecting them to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and tests that had not been approved by an ethics committee.

After being paid to conduct the tests by pharmaceutical companies, Sharma failed to seek proper approval from medical bodies and then misled the companies about his methods.

In 2003, Sharma recruited mental health patients suffering from Schizoprenia and Alzheimer's in unsolicited telephone calls and without consent from their doctors. He then failed to give them proper information about the trials: it came to light that one schizophrenic was just given a leaflet.

It was the pharmaceutical company Sanofi that first exposed Tonmoy Sharma’s wrongdoings. The complaint made by Sanofi to the Institute of Psychiatry in 2001 had resulted in Sharma’s temporary suspension and an investigation.

Tonmoy Sharma had done his MBBS from Dibrugarh University in Assam and has been on UK's general psychiatry register since May 1996. He has also taught at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.





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