To the Biederman, Anversa, and Hauser Hall of Fame at Harvard…

… we can now add Calestous Juma, a Kennedy School prof laboring mightily to do the bidding of his corporate besties at Monsanto as together they make the world safe for modified crops.

UD ain’t claiming Juma’s a pioneer in the business of exploiting one’s connection to Harvard to fuck with research results and/or earn millions in questionable corporate and other supporting funds and/or let corporations write your papers for you; Joseph Biederman got there long before Juma, as did, allegedly, Piero Anversa, and good ol’ Marc Hauser. UD‘s only claiming that the tradition of selling yourself and Harvard to, uh, interested corporations continues to thrive at that school.

Attention Martin Shkreli!!!

More drugs in the pipeline!

Bravo, West Virginia University.

This blog has dumped on WVU for its sports-nuttiness and of course for Mr Coca Cola.

But look what a modest lab there did. It uncovered the Volkswagen fuel fraud.

Wow. UD knew tuition was high at her university…

… But there’s also this:

[A] D.C. man who received care from George Washington University Hospital in March … said he requested a copy of his electronic medical records in April. He initially received a bill for $32.32 for seven pages copied at 76 cents per page, as well as the “basic fee” of $22.88 and shipping and handling fees.

But in July, he received a second bill for $430.20 including copying fees for more than 500 pages of records.

UD will admit to failing to understand, so far, the facts of this and a related, Georgetown University, lawsuit. She can only find one article about it so far (the Washington Business Journal charged her $5,000 to copy it**), and if you read it I think you’ll agree it’s rather confusing. OTOH, whatever the details of electronic v. paper, third parties, number of pages and how you determine that, etc., etc., she will assume that the basic fact of having to pay over five hundred dollars to get your medical records is astonishing. Maybe GW’s records vendor is one of the many businesses run by Martin Shkreli.


** Joke.


Oh. Turns out this is old news for Shkreli Industries Incorporated. Drop in the bucket.


Yes. HealthPort Technologies LLC. The Martin Shkreli of Medical Records.

Han and Hunton: Because Fraud Doesn’t Take Summers Off.

A mid-summer reminder from UD that research fraud – whopping big research fraud – is a year-round phenom at American universities. Two representative cases that have recently hit (re-hit; these stories have been kicking around for years) the news come from med and business schools, the two great incubators of research fraud. (Engineering schools do financial fraud, as in professors taking grant money and setting up secret businesses into which they divert said grant money.) (And let’s not forget psychology and sociology – two departments with extremely impressive histories of fraud, if not as impressive as med and biz schools, and with less capacity to inflict serious damage on humanity.)

UD reported on Bentley University’s James Hunton this time last year; he’d been fired from Bentley back in 2012, when the school managed to overcome Hunton’s total refusal to cooperate with their investigation of one made-up research paper (the number of such papers has risen to 31) to can his ass. (Subject of Hunton’s research: fraud.)

The Washington Post provides an update:

One of the nation’s premier academic journals of accounting has retracted 25 articles co-authored by a once-renowned professor who specialized in corporate ethics but was later accused of “fabricating” data.

The American Association of Accounting, which publishes the Accounting Review, issued the retractions last week based on a “pattern of misconduct” by James E. Hunton, who resigned from his position at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., a business school with nearly 6,000 graduate and undergraduate students.

The hunt’s on for Hunton:

Hunton has made no public comment on the allegations against him. Neither The Post nor Retraction Watch has been able to locate him now or last year when The Post, the Boston Globe and other news outlets wrote about the results of Bentley’s investigation of Hunton.

For a guy like Hunton, who had the balls to make up vast swathes of accounting firm employees across the globe, to pretend to interview them, to create copious data about them, and to write it all up in probably hundreds of academic papers, the business of dropping out and changing his identity was probably a cinch. No doubt he’s living in Jamaica, having dyed his hair red, had facial surgery, and stolen the identity of some poor student he had twenty years ago. You ain’t gonna find Hunton.

Dong-Pyou Han not so much.

Dong-Pyou Han pleaded guilty in February to faking results in AIDS-vaccine experiments. Prosecutors say his actions led federal administrators to award an extra $7 million to $20 million in grants for the research, and they want him to serve prison time for his actions… [F]ederal research administrators were “flabbergasted” by the supposed success of [Han’s] experimental vaccine, which led them to increase the project’s financing. [Han’s fraud led his] research team to focus on the specific vaccine, when they could have been looking into more promising areas.

Faking results in the great pandemic of our time. Stand-up guy.

Anyway. Terrific blogs like Retraction Watch couldn’t exist without the steady stream of research fraud coming not just from the States, of course, but from all over the world.

The Dissers of Oz

UD has covered several stories involving, er, questionable physicians on the faculty of Columbia University. (Here’s the most recent.) The place attracts an odd lot, and of course med schools don’t pay much attention to their faculties, because there are absolutely tons of people vaguely affiliated with medical faculties and they’re doing God knows what.

One Columbia med school professor UD has always wondered about is Mehmet Oz, doc to the credulous unwashed masses. You see the guy get hauled up before Congress to explain why he’s pushing treatments in which he has massive financial interests; you watch him say stuff that… Well, let’s approach the latest news story about him by citing the headline in Gizmodo’s coverage:


A bunch of docs at places other than Columbia have written a letter to the dean of the med school (they are “all distinguished,” the letter writers note). They want him removed from the premises.

And it’s actually a very good, very strong letter. Short and sour and way to the point – especially this bit:

Dr. Oz is guilty of either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgements about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both. Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz’s presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.

Whatever the nature of his pathology. Ouch. Ooch. Eech.

Of course they can’t get rid of the dude. He’s probably already preparing a defamation whatever, plus his loyal minions will stage protests in their operating rooms or something. At best Columbia will muzzle him a little.

“The U of M has sued Weiss to recover its own costs.”

How do you get to this point?

How, in one of America’s more enlightened, compassionate states, do you get to the point where that state’s university sues the grieving mother of a son who killed himself while enrolled in one of that university’s drug trials? That mother, Mary Weiss, did everything humanly possible to try to get a son she knew was too mentally fragile to have given consent to be dosed with a new antipsychotic (they’re almost never really new; they’re slightly fussed with so that manufacturers can charge more) taken out of that trial. But the big money from AstraZeneca was there in the psychiatry department at the University of Minnesota, and the amazingly positive results they needed for their next advertising campaign needed to be delivered, and Weiss’s son would have to play his part.

If Pirandello were writing this tragedy, he’d have titled it Six Characters in Search of Psychotics.

Or … Take the name from a recently released documentary: The Hunting Ground.

Mothers, lock up your children. Pharma’s sniffing around.

The lawsuit that the University of Minnesota initiated against Weiss was about bullying her into dropping her legal efforts against the university. The bullying worked.

What didn’t work was UM’s effort to pretend nothing sordid happened here. More than a few pharma-subsidized university trials are sordid, since there’s big money at stake, as well as pressure to produce the results all that money’s paying for. Things might not be quite as blatantly sordid as Star Scientific and Novartis and Joseph Biederman … The cynical determination to overdiagnose and overmedicate every person in America might not be quite as thunderingly obvious… But, as at the University of Minnesota, the deal was pretty clear to anyone able to see.

Now that the Minnesota state auditor has discovered what anyone able to see could see, that university has a big, big problem.

With grim determination, over many years, UD’s blogpal Carl Elliott…

… has kept after his employer, the University of Minnesota, in the matter of Dan Markingson and research ethics. Elliott and others have long argued that Markingson was too mentally fragile to have given informed consent to take part in a UM clinical drug trial, and that his suicide during the trial might not have happened had he not been “coerced …into participating … and then exploited…”

The university has been singularly and stupidly determined to deny that anything at all is amiss in any of its research protocols, and Carl has been subject to pressure and ridicule on that campus. Finally, however, something like victory might be in sight:

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler told faculty leaders Friday that the university will change the way it treats human test subjects.

Last week, a review of the university’s human research practices criticized the school — and, in particular, its psychiatry department — for not doing enough to protect vulnerable adults in its research.

One doesn’t want to get too excited, though. As Carl points out:

The danger lies not just in the particular circumstances that led to Dan’s death, but in a system of clinical research that has been thoroughly co-opted by market forces, so that many studies have become little more than covert instruments for promoting drugs. The study in which Dan died starkly illustrates the hazards of market-driven research and the inadequacy of our current oversight system to detect them.

The Onion shares reassuring results on …


The man running the show at Wisconsin’s universities.


Sometimes, you need a lot of patience to reform institutions.

Whether it’s the FDA, so “deeply captured, drawn [so] firmly into the orbit of the pharmaceutical industry that it’s supposed to regulate,” that it routinely fails to inform “scientists, doctors, and the public” about research fraud; or whether it’s the research trials at the University of Minnesota, where the scandal of Dan Markingson’s 2004 death slowly, slowly begins to have real consequences for that institution.

A leading state lawmaker has asked Senate leadership to postpone selection of University of Minnesota regents until next month’s state review of the university’s drug-trial program.

Senate Higher Education Committee chair Terri Bonoff confirmed Friday she has asked Majority Leader Tom Bakk to delay the process in light of a letter from former Gov. Arne Carlson that was critical of the university.

In his letter, delivered Thursday, Carlson expressed concern over the university’s handling of patients in clinical drug research trials, as well as regents’ oversight.

Carlson said the program has a history of deaths, injuries and conflicts of interest. He described the selection of the 11-member Board of Regents as “little more than a political beauty contest.”

A key concern in the letter is the 2004 suicide of drug trial participant Dan Markingson.

Useless trustees make the world safe for things like conflicted researchers, and conflicted researchers can make the situation of participants in experiments unsafe. UM has managed to avoid a serious reckoning with what Markingson’s fate represents, but events are beginning to change that.

“His work is well supported. Dr. Bennett has been awarded more than $4.2 million in federal research grants.”

So okay he’s had to give a chunk of that back because he stole it. Fine. We at the University of South Carolina are still proud as punch! Charles Bennett’s a winner and Northwestern had him but NU had to pay “$2.93 million in July 2013 to settle claims that the University ignored a whistleblower’s concerns about Bennett,” and I guess all the hoo-haw didn’t sit too well with NU because Bennett had to scoot.

So he became a free agent and we got him! Score one for USC!!


Background on The Pride of USC here and here.

Coming: Pills to counteract the anxiety-provoking effects of your anti-anxiety medication.


“Prosecutors say the data were ascertained to have been altered in many cases. We cannot help but wonder why the medical doctors at the universities were unaware of what happened. Laboratories of those universities have so far received more than ¥1.1 billion in research funding from Novartis Pharma. The possibility is high that the back-scratching relations between universities, who are eager to obtain cash from businesses, and Novartis, out to exploit research results to promote its drug sales, may have formed a hotbed of wrongdoing.”

The Japanese have actually arrested someone in the Novartis scandal (background here). Color UD shocked. Color her shocked beyond recovery if the guy actually goes to jail for more than a day or two.

Novartis embedded one of its employees – made him a staff scientist – in five Japanese university laboratories. Five.

As a Novartis Pharma employee [Nobuo] Shirahashi took charge of analyzing data from clinical tests comparing Diovan and other blood pressure-lowing drugs at five Japanese universities … between 2002 and 2004.

How did that happen? How did a Diovan pusher get accepted – hired? – into five university labs in Japan and then take charge of clinical results?

That’s the ¥1.1 billion question, ain’t it?

“His sins trickled from his lips, one by one, trickled in shameful drops from his soul festering and oozing like a sore, a squalid stream of vice.”

A squalid stream of vice does nicely to describe the now-released details of Harvard’s Marc Hauser, one of a number of naughty psychologists whose misdeeds keep hitting the newspapers.

It’s rather heartbreaking to read this email exchange, revealing as it does what happens when a person of integrity blunders into the lab of a powerful, crooked scientist.

In 2007, a member of the laboratory wanted to recode an experiment involving rhesus monkey behavior, due to “inconsistencies” in the coding.

“I am getting a bit pissed here. There were no inconsistencies!” Hauser responded, explaining how an analysis was done.

Later that day, the person resigned from the lab. “It has been increasingly clear for a long time now that my interests have been diverging sharply from what the lab does, and it seems like an increasingly inappropriate and uncomfortable place for me,” the person wrote.

This of course is the way in which dirty labs get dirtier and dirtier. Legitimate people leave, and even schools as burnished as Harvard find themselves harboring high-profile fraud.

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