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When the Mouse is Away - Further Evidence of Need for Conflict of Interest Reform at the University of Minnesota Medical School

So I go away for Spring Break thinking that all will be peaceful…

That would be no.

There goes our pesky medical school again. This time the chairman of the psychiatry department is in hot water for tilting the table for his favorite consulting pharmaceutical company.

UD has a great post that capsulizes articles in the Pioneer-Press, the Strib, and the Daily.

Introducing Sargeant Schulz…

… another paid agent of America’s amazing pharmaceutical industry. Schulz, a very good soldier, is (as Charles Nemeroff used to be) head of psychiatry at his university. And what a university it is. The University of Minnesota medical school, under the leadership of even better soldier Deborah Powell, is making quite a name for itself in the conflict of interest field. When it comes to marching in step with your paymasters, no one does it better than the University of Minnesota.

A top University of Minnesota psychiatrist’s ties to a drug maker have come under scrutiny because he reported that the company’s blockbuster antipsychotic, Seroquel, was significantly superior to other drugs — despite evidence to the contrary.

Two months after an internal analysis by the company, AstraZeneca, found Seroquel was no better than an older, cheaper antipsychotic, Dr. S. Charles Schulz used much of the same data to publicly report that the company’s drug was “more effective.”

The disconnect between the company’s private findings in March 2000 and the psychiatrist’s optimistic report to the American Psychiatric Association in May 2000 are further evidence to critics that the drug industry can shape, revise or even conceal negative research.

It also feeds concerns that drug companies are paying noted doctors such as Schulz, the U’s chair of psychiatry, for research results that advance their marketing agendas.

Schulz has received $112,000 in consulting fees and university grants from 2002 through 2007 from AstraZeneca, according to state records, and nearly $450,000 from rival drug maker Eli Lilly.

“I hope that our findings help physicians better understand the dramatic benefits of newer medications like SEROQUEL,” Schulz said in an AstraZeneca news release
on his 2000 report, “because, if they do, we may be able to help ensure patients receive these medications first.”

Note that Minnesota professors even write like hucksters rather than scientists: DRAMATIC BENEFITS!! STEP RIGHT UP!!

Look sharp, junior professors in the University of Minnesota psychiatry department! This is the way the chair writes.

UD thanks a reader for sending her this latest dispatch.

I was out of town, or I would have:

a) sent this to Margaret
b) gotten a post up of my own.


Professor Gleason,

I want to personally thank you for your stand insofar as the ethics (or lack thereof) of S. Charles Schulz. Dr. Schulz was co-investigator in the CAFE Study, the study in which my son Dan Markingson died almost five years ago. You may have heard of Dan. Dr. Schulz had three opportunities to save the life of my son and each time turned his back. (I would like to send you a copy of the letter he wrote to me April 28, 2004, ten days before Dan died. This was after I had sent him three letters, one certified.) That he values the status of his bank account over the life of his patient is obvious.
I do understand that for every Schulz, Olson and Nemeroff there are a dozen wonderful doctors, and I try to remind myself of this. Yet I am hopeful that we can stop those who are the minions of the pharmaceutical companies before others die.

Thank you.

Mary Weiss

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