By Lucy Cockcroft
A psychiatrist who regularly appeared as an expert on the BBC has been struck off the medical register after he lied about his academic qualifications and performed unethical drugs tests on mentally ill patients.
Tonmoy Sharma, who was a senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, has been exposed as a fraud who repeatedly referred to himself as a "professor" when records show that he had never completed a PhD thesis.
Tonmoy Sharma was found guilty of serious professional misconduct
Despite this, Sharma, who was registered at the Clinical Neuroscience Research Centre in Dartford, Kent, regularly used the letters PhD after his name and managed to deceive the NHS and some of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.
He also appeared on the BBC2 series Mind of a Murderer in 2000 and was often used as an expert commentator on BBC News Online stories.
A General Medical Council panel yesterday 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 panel, told 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."
Mr Popat said Sharma, the author of several books on mental illness, had "contributed significantly towards the advancement of medical science" and was highly regarded by his colleagues.
However, after a 10-month hearing, the GMC Fitness to Practise panel found Sharma guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck him off the medical register.
The 42-year-old, who trained in India, was found to have 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.
He also misled the companies when he chose to use identical patients in different studies, subjecting them to MRI scans and tests that had not been approved by an ethics committee. In 2003, he recruited mental health patients in unsolicited telephone calls and without consent from their doctors. He then failed to give them proper information about the trials - one schizophrenic was simply handed a leaflet.
His misconduct was first uncovered by the drugs company Sanofi, and a complaint resulting in his temporary suspension was made to the Institute of Psychiatry in 2001, prompting an investigation.
Sharma, who represented himself at the hearing, denied the claims and insisted that he "believed in ethics in medicine".