University of Minnesota bioethicist Carl Elliott's new book, "White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine" (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0807061425/) is already getting a lot of attention. (See the Periodic Table, http://ptable.blogspot.com/, for some links and commentary.) Among other things, the book discusses the influence of pharmaceutical companies on clinical trials that take place on university campuses, including the University of Minnesota. In a riveting recent article in Mother Jones, Elliott uses the case of the death of UofM student Dan Markingson in a clinical trial conducted at the UofM to highlight the ethical issues that arise when universities compromise their ethics in pursuit of revenue. It also presents a stinging indictment of the U's abysmal record in investigating internal misconduct. Most shameful of all, the U filed a legal action against Dan Markingson's mother to recover $57,000 in legal expenses and only dropped the lawsuit after she agreed not to appeal the partial summary judgment. (The article is available for free if you register.)
Elliott was also interviewed recently on MPR:
The U, of course, has its lawyers hot on the case of disputing Elliott's work. General Counsel Mark Rotenberg issued the following statement this week:
(On Rotenberg's antics as General Counsel, check out these posts on Periodic Table:
The statement ends with a reference to the Academic Health Center's new conflict of interest policy. Aside from the issue of lack of consultation with faculty at the AHC regarding the policy, the new policy seems to have many substantive shortcomings.
One wonders if such a weak policy has the teeth necessary to prevent the conflicts of interest that may have contributed to the death of Dan Markingson.