Conflict of interest tsunami continues

The Globe has been all over the Congressional investigation into conflicts of interest in medical research.  Today’s paper has a story on Tufts administrators apparently refusing to sit on a campus panel on the topic because it would also include an aide to US Senator Charles Grassley. The Republican lawmaker is leading the probe, which is  looking at a Tufts researcher, among others.

 Tufts University has withdrawn an invitation for a top aide to US Senator Charles E. Grassley to give the keynote speech at a conference on conflicts of interest in medicine and research, leading one conference organizer to pull out and question the university’s commitment to academic freedom.

The University-wide Committee on Ethics rescinded the invitation on March 13, according to e-mails obtained by the Globe. The messages said top Tufts officials refused to allow other administrators to be panelists at the meeting if Grassley’s aide spoke, saying it was inappropriate to do so while Grassley is investigating ties between a Tufts professor and the drug industry.

Sheldon Krimsky, a Tufts professor of Urban & Environmental Policy who tried to help organize this event, has written extensively about  industry-academic relationships. His 2004 book is called  Science in the Private Interest.

Also, more details are emerged earlier this last week  about Harvard child psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Biederman and his relationships with drug makers. Again, the ever-reliable Liz Kowalczyk of the Globe reports:

The expanded inquiry is based in part on slide presentations that summarize projects at the Johnson & Johnson Center for Pediatric Psychopathology Research, a center at Massachusetts General Hospital that was funded by Johnson & Johnson and headed by Biederman from 2002 to 2005.

Under the heading “Key Projects for 2005,” one slide promises to provide a J&J subsidiary, Janssen, “with critical competitive data on safety and efficacy of risperidone (an antipsychotic) in children” under age 10, while another talks about expanding use of the drug Concerta for teenagers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Another slide indicates that a benefit of the center is to help J&J develop new uses for its drugs.

In a seven-page letter sent yesterday to Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust and Mass. General president Dr. Peter Slavin, (US Senator Charles )Grassley, a Republican, said he is concerned about the implications of the slides and asks why they “suggest an expectation of positive outcomes” prior to the clinical trials.


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