Article Text

Download PDFPDF
117 Shooting the messenger: the case of Gretchen LeFever watson. A work in progress filmproject about ADHD and a showcase in how researchers can halted when going against the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. LeFever-Watson and Katrine Borre will tell the story, show clips from the film and seek audience input
  1. Katrine Borre1,
  2. Gretchen LeFever Watson2
  1. 1Filmkontoret, Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2Safety and Leadership Solutions, Virginia Beach, USA


The movie Shooting the Messenger tells the story of a scientist in Virginia, Dr. Gretchen LeFever Watson, who in 2005 had her research halted, her computers seized, and her staff prohibited from contacting her due to a malicious allegation of scientific misconduct. It’s a chilling account of how the public can be misled about health interventions that don’t support the sale of drugs.

When the improper allegation was filed against LeFever, her team had spent 10 years collecting data and developing alternatives to ADHD drugs in collaboration with local institutions, parents, and other concerned community members. Their successful community initiative, which was open to the public, had drawn attention across Virginia. Increasingly, their scientific evidence of ADHD overtreatment and effective non-drug interventions were gaining national and international attention, until the misconduct charge put an end to that work.

The complaint against LeFever was sent anonymously to her medical school. She was never allowed to see it, yet the school confirmed to the press that LeFever was under investigation. Press interference and external inquires repeatedly delayed the investigation. After nearly two years, the school found no evidence of fraud, but the damage had been done. LeFever’s projects had been frozen for too long to restart them. Having failed to complete federally funded grants damaged LeFever’s academic reputation, precluding her from securing new funding.

Shooting the Messenger showcases how powerful forces with ties to the pharmaceutical industry can halt researchers who threaten their interests. After each instance there are fewer researchers who dare to follow. In this case, innovative research-to-action strategies with great potential for improving ADHD care across the U.S. and beyond were shut down. Fearing possible wrongdoing of among its faculty, the medical school prematurely promised local officials that her data would never be allowed to be used . Today most parents and caregivers are not even aware that there are alternatives to a medical approach, and collecting information like LeFever and her team had gathered is not considered an option

We will show film clips from the film in which Dr. LeFever-Watson shares her story. We will seek audience input about suitable venues for this film, its use as a teaching tool in different settings and possible funding. That the LeFever case will be new to many speaks to the urgent of this film. The pharmaceutical industry has billions of dollars to promote its agendas while individual researchers have limited funds and opportunities to tell their stories. Combined with mentions of this story by investigative reporters Jeanne Lenzer and Robert Whitaker in BMJ and Anatomy of an Epidemic and on David Healy’s website, we hope film will reopen LeFever’s case and result in important data that were collected at taxpayer expense will finally be released for public exposure, and also inspire other researchers

Katrine Borre, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and founder of Flimkonteret, will discuss her effective and discrete methods of investigation of how the pharmaceutical industry is promoting ADHD in her county, Denmark

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.