Ethicists demand external, independent investigation of Dan Markingson’s death

In November 2003, psychiatrists at the University of Minnesota used the threat of involuntary commitment to force a mentally ill young man named Dan Markingson into a profitable, industry-funded study of antipsychotic drugs. Dan, who was mentally incapable of giving informed consent to participate in this research, was recruited into the study over the objections of his mother, Mary Weiss.

For months Mary tried desperately to get him out of the clinical trials, warning the psychiatrists in writing that Dan’s condition was deteriorating and that he was in danger of killing himself.

The psychiatrists refused to listen to her.

On May 8, 2004, Dan committed suicide, and Mary Weiss lost her only child.  Continue reading

When medical research is funded to favour the drug, not the facts

Here’s a cardiac research story so confusing that the average dull-witted heart attack survivor like me can barely keep up with the plot. So let’s try telling the tale in pared-down plain English to see if we can figure out how two well-respected “experts” can have such viciously opposing interpretations of the same research, and what factors might just be at work to influence those opinions – financial and otherwise.

But before even looking at the story’s details,  let’s do what everybody should do before evaluating any study results: fast-forward to the end of the research report until you find the teeny tiny fine print revealing researchers’ conflict of interest disclosures. And it turns out that each of the opposing researchers in this story has plenty of reason to trash the other’s interpretation.  Continue reading

Why is Big Pharma getting away with paying billions in criminal fines – but avoiding criminal charges?

Drug giant AstraZeneca has been working on a back room legal settlement deal with the U.S. government since last fall. And according to a New York Times investigation, the company has earmarked $520 million for the purpose.

According to the Times, the final arrangement will wrap up two federal investigations: one related to doctors who participated in clinical trials of the drug and another involved the company’s sales organization. The company allegedly misled both doctors and patients about the safety of its atypical anti-psychotic drug Seroquel, downplaying the known risks of weight gain and diabetes.

AstraZeneca has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The drugmaker will pay $520 million in criminal fines and sign a corporate integrity agreement to settle probes into its marketing of the anti-psychotic drug. But the company will not face any criminal charges.   Continue reading