Scuz School Supreme: University of Miami

Yes, yes, you’re right – as UD readers constantly point out, one day it’s the University of Georgia, another day Penn State, another day Southern Methodist, and yet another day Alabama State… So many of this country’s universities are in various high-profile aspects disgusting that no one university wears the crown for long.

But. But – If UD were asked which university, not only in its sports but in its academic component most consistently struck her as disgusting, I think she’d have to say, on balance, and on reflection, and on reading today’s story about Miami’s deeply loved and curiously successful baseball coach Lazaro Collazo (You can still find Miami heavily breathing upon its beloved here. Why take down the page? Taking down pages of disgraced UM people would threaten the sports budget.), that it’s Charles Nemeroff’s and Nevin Shapiro’s University of Miami.

“When you’re talking about PEDs in the black market, we’re talking about some clown in his basement, with a bucket and a burner, and a very dangerously limited knowledge of chemistry… And these chemicals were going in our children’s bodies.”

Yes, the University of Miami’s finest was for years allegedly peddling and administering performance enhancing drugs to the kiddies. Drugs made, as the DEA agent I just quoted notes, according to the highest standards.

See, that’s why UM gets scuzziest. It’s not just about money. It’s about hiring and sanctifying people like Collazo.

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Ugh. You want the underbelly? You really want the underbelly? Okay. You asked for it. Welcome to the University of Miami.

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Update: Ooh. They took down the page!

Courtesy Authorship, Retraction, Courtesy Kiss-Off…

… is the familiar three-step featured at American medical schools like Emory University.

Emory University has mainly been known as the forcing ground of conflict of interest giants like Charles Nemeroff. Yet while plenty of other American med schools feature COI gone wild, Emory couples COI with high-profile, frequent retraction of fraudulent articles.

How high-profile? Chair of the department of medicine.

How does he manage to have produced (so far) six retracted papers?

Well, as lab honcho, he puts his name on stuff that goes out whether he’s had anything much to do with what’s been written.

This is known as guest writing or courtesy authorship (discussion of the practice here) and it accounts for the fact that when you look at any random med school jerk’s cv it’s going to say he’s published eight hundred articles. Everybody’s sticking their name on everybody else’s paper. It takes a village.

So step one is courtesy authorship. Step two, because you’re too important to notice conniving actual-author underlings, is retraction.

Step three is your amazing retirement party, where without irony people say things like “What is important is not just the quantity of Dr. [Wayne] Alexander’s work, but the quality.”

“[L]ast year, the company paid $3 billion in fines to the federal government because it had earlier promoted some antidepressants for unapproved uses and failed to report the status of studies about our diabetes drug. We are committed to ensuring that this never happens again.”

Let’s see… That was July 6, 2013, and today is July 18, 2013, and the head of Glaxo North America was telling the New York Times on July 6 that her company was definitely going to avoid the massive corruption (her dainty description of what Glaxo did wrong doesn’t quite cover the matter – unless you think three billion dollars in fines for failure to report the status of a couple of studies sounds about right) for which Glaxo has long been renowned.

And maybe Glaxo will avoid that form of corruption – I mean, the form that involves paying American university professors to put their names on bogus studies your advertising people have written and thereby endangering, well, basically endangering the entire population of the world… While ripping the world off to buy the drugs that will kill it…

Anyway, that was then. This is now, several days later, and now this humongous story about Glaxo using whores and bribes to take over the Chinese market is breaking all over the place, and I’m sure Glaxo is again shocked shocked that hundreds of millions of impoverished Chinese people are unable to afford medicine because the price of pills has been jacked up by Glaxo paying prescribing doctors to jack off.

“Each doctor had a credit card from the company. The kickbacks were transferred to the cards the day after drugs were prescribed,” [one] newspaper claimed.

[An investigator] said consumers were being defrauded. The official Xinhua news agency, which was given access to [a Glaxo executive] in detention, quoted him allegedly saying medicine that cost 30 yuan to make could be sold for 300 yuan.

The sums quoted by the police, if correct, suggest GSK was spending a significant proportion of its annual sales revenue on bribing doctors. In 2012, the company’s sales in China rose 17pc, to nearly £759m, from 2011, according to its annual report.

I wonder if Glaxo is also offering sexual relief to UCLA professors.

You know, lots of university professors are walking around with Glaxo in their name. Take this one, at today’s scandal-plagued darling, Rutgers University: Ah-Ng Tony Kong, Professor II and Glaxo Professor of Pharmaceutics. When does the name of a person (the Paterno Chair, the Ira Rennert Professor) or a company get so yucky you kind of think you might want to refuse it?

A company like Glaxo – could its vileness become so generally known that universities would begin turning down naming rights for their faculty?

Nah.

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Update: The Yellow Peril made us do it!

We don’t do this sort of thing.

Sail On, Oh Institute of Psychiatry!

The world’s poster child for academic conflict of interest will soon arrive on your shores to grant his blessing to your new research center! You went right to the very top – the US of A’s own Charles Nemeroff – for the inaugural lecture. Perennial object of United States Senate interest because of his fascinating use of taxpayer money, Nemeroff promises to bring to you Brits, as you set out on your own research programs, the same … fascinating ethos he has brought to his own… peripatetic career.

As an American, I can’t hide my pride in the way England, once our ruler, has now summoned one of us for inspiration and advice on how best to pursue scientific endeavors.

Naturally, given Nemeroff’s record, there are nay-sayers at your institute.

Derek Summerfield, honorary senior lecturer at the Institute, wrote in the BMJ, formerly called the British Medical Journal, last week that the Institute of Psychiatry’s lauding of Professor [Charles] Nemeroff as “one of the world’s leading experts” showed how psychiatric academe “sails blithely on as if such revelations beg no broader questions about its associations and supposed scientific independence.”

Yes, sail blithely on! You have much to learn from Charles Nemeroff about grantsmanship. Good show!

As you read this history, just keep repeating…

… “This is a university. This is a university.”

Again, as you read this update, repeat: This is a university. This is a university.

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Emory at first did nothing about complaints directed at [Charles] Nemeroff, but in the aftermath of intense political pressure from the United States Senate, and from Senator Chuck Grassley in particular, he was subsequently stripped of his department chairmanship and forbidden from accepting more drug company largess. He soon left the university. Not to worry, though; he has since resurfaced as chair of psychiatry at the University of Miami.

This is a university.

This is a university.

Don’t forget: Biederman is still at Harvard, and Schatzberg is still at Stanford.

[Joseph] Biederman, along with Charles Nemeroff, who was then at Emory University, and Alan Schatzberg of Stanford (the 116th President of the American Psychiatric Association) are in many ways poster boys for [pharma corruption]. Ironically, it was Schatzberg, during his presidency in 2009, who responded vehemently to Allen Frances’s criticisms of the DSM 5 task force by pointing to the $10,000 in royalties Frances was still receiving from DSM IV. Apparently, the $4.8 million in stock options Schatzberg had in a drug development company, or the fat fees he received from such companies as Pfizer, had no similar distorting effect on his judgment — just as the $960,000 Charles Nemeroff received from GlaxoSmithKline (while reporting only $35,000 to his university) had no influence on him. And just as the millions of dollars that Biederman and his associates at Harvard received for creating a new diagnosis and a massive new market for antidepressants and second-generation antipsychotics among young children (drugs associated with massive weight gain, metabolic disorders, diabetes, and premature death) had nothing to do with their behavior!

Nemeroff is now at the University of Miami, but that’s not a scandal because Miami isn’t a respectable university. The scandal lies at respectable places like Stanford and Harvard, which will “turn a blind eye to ethical failings if the money on offer is sufficiently tempting.”

Certain university presidents – Donna Shalala, Richard Joel – just make you scratch your head.

They are Huh? presidents. The things they do are so nutty, so destructive, that you simply have to sit back and wonder.

These are the university presidents with multiple ongoing national scandals to their names, the university presidents always reeling from massive sex scandals to massive money scandals, never quite catching up with anything… You can sort of see the sweat dripping off of their faces as they stonewall on this one, pass the buck on that one…

Shalala – University of Miami – is still buffeted by the rioting football players scandal and the Nevin Shapiro scandal, but now, in addition to those, she’s got the Pascal Goldschmidt scandal. Much of her medical school faculty is up in arms about Dean Goldschmidt and his, er, management techniques… But Shalala says nothing; whether it’s Goldschmidt, or her other proud med school appointment – Charles Nemeroff, she’s just going to keep on keeping on thank you very much…

Joel, of Yeshiva, is a yet stranger case, a man whose tenure has witnessed the deification and then rapid de-deification of trustees Bernard Madoff and Ezra Merkin, the existence of a board of trustees (all male, natch; women would be against Yeshiva’s religion) so rife with conflict of interest it became a laughingstock, and a decades-long sex scandal whose legal costs promise to set YU back even more than the $150 million or so it lost because of Bernie and Ezra.

This sex scandal, this latest thing, involving rabbis abusing boys at Yeshiva’s university-run high school, isn’t raising Joel’s game any.

[One of the abused] also said that he reported the abuse to Y.U.’s current president, Richard Joel, before and after Joel took up the post in 2003. Joel did not launch an investigation into the abuse allegations until they were published in [a newspaper].

At first, through a spokesman, he said that Y.U. had retained the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell to “assist” in the investigation. Later, he said that Sullivan & Cromwell’s investigation would be independent.

Same old same old. Denial, number one. Number two, try to control everything. Number three, pushed to the absolute effing wall, begin – tentatively, shamelessly, angrily, self-righteously – dealing with it.

Spinal Tap

The University of Wisconsin has endured the taptaptap of bad news about one of its faculty for years, and for years it has closed its ears to it.

It’s our old friend Thomas Zdeblick, object of a federal investigation into his remarkably lucrative relationship with Medtronic.

Investigators … found that two papers Zdeblick co-authored were among 11 in which Medtronic employees, including those in the company’s marketing department, were secretly involved in drafting and editing, a practice known as ghostwriting.

Both papers were published in the Journal of Spinal Disorders & Techniques where Zdeblick has served as editor-in-chief since 2002. That role was the subject of a 2009 Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today investigation that found the journal frequently published favorable articles about Medtronic products under Zdeblick’s watch. The story noted that Zdeblick’s financial relationship with Medtronic was not disclosed by the journal.

Many more gory details here. The picture the investigation draws is one of rampant conflict of interest destructive of patient health and research integrity. An Emory professor to whom Medtronic gave $25.5 million protests that the money had absolutely no effect on the articles he wrote about its products.

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The Zdeblick scandal jumps to Reuters. Perhaps now, with the release of the Senate’s definitive report, this story will get the attention it deserves. The University of Wisconsin will no more respond to it than Donna Shalala’s University of Miami will face up to what it has in Charles Nemeroff. It will take international coverage of practices at schools like Wisconsin for the conflict of interest that corrupts academic medicine in the United States to change.

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Two of the featured Medtronic beneficiaries are at the University of Louisville.

Miller’s Tale

She’s only just tamped down the Nevin Shapiro fiasco (thank God for Penn State!), and now here comes the Miller School of Medicine fiasco for University of Miami president Donna Shalala. Rather like big ol’ Larry Summers at Harvard with his interest-rate swaps and Allston expansions, Shalala’s all about thinking big and promising big and, you know, just going for it. Now she’s got a school hemorrhaging money as illustrious researchers like perennial UD favorite Charles Nemeroff receive millions in salary. Nemeroff’s BFF, Pascal J. Goldschmidt, Miller School honcho, must take most of the credit for this outcome.

Greed, ego – at Harvard or UM, you want to try to control these things.

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UD thanks Roy.

‘”There’s really nothing to say,” Adauto said.’

Adauto is an unidentified University of Texas El Paso administrator (?), who cheerily cooperates with the local press in providing background on Professor Fernando Rodriguez, who has suddenly up and resigned. Or retired. Or whatever.

Rodriguez turned in his resignation letter in recent weeks, Adauto said. Asked why UTEP didn’t make that information public, Adauto said, “I’m not sure it was necessary. He resigned.”

… Asked whether the professor’s departure is a resignation or a retirement, Adauto said, “Technically, there is no difference.”

He’s just… gone, okay? I don’t want to talk about it!

The reasons he left are indeed manifold and obscure. A scan of the El Paso Times article suggests levels of corruption typical to Texas but rather shocking in other parts of the country. The FBI notes that he

received more than $914,000 in outside employment between 2001 and 2009 without reporting it as required by University of Texas at El Paso rules. Additional documents showed that Rodriguez was paid an additional $233,000 by Aliviane Inc. in 2010, bringing his total pay by the nonprofit to more than $1.1 million.

While Rodriguez will never reach the heights of Nemeroff (that was pharma; this was only the federal government), he managed to pull in quite a lot of money while disclosing none of it to UTEP. Also, unlike Nemeroff (so far), he will probably go to jail.

“The American Psychiatric Association just reported a surprisingly large yearly deficit of $350,000. This was caused by reduced publishing profits, poor attendance at its annual meeting…”

What? You mean thousands of people aren’t attracted to meetings featuring Charles Nemeroff and Alan Schatzberg?

Allen Frances goes on to say that “Psychiatric diagnosis has become too important to be left in the hands of a small, withering, cash-strapped, incompetent association that feels compelled to regard its bottom line as a higher priority than having a safe, scientifically sound, and widely accepted diagnostic system.”

Bureaucracies are funny things.

Look at the Pope over there in Vatican City taking a star turn in What the Butler Saw as his city state fails to “shed its reputation as a scandal plagued tax haven.”

Look at the big happy family of University of Texas scientists who just went ahead and gave the family a huge state grant, without bothering to check with the provost or anything.

And look at another huge bureaucracy, the place UD‘s father spent his entire scientific career: the National Institutes of Health. The NIH just went ahead and gave America’s own tête d’affiche pour conflit d’intérêts (Charles Nemeroff has been called poster boy for conflict of interest so many times, I thought I’d jazz it up by putting it in French) another big grant, since you want to encourage his sort of behavior… or whatever…

I mean, it’s about bureaucracies, isn’t it? In all three cases? You’ve got cronies and histories of you do me and I do you and all… Everybody’s in everybody else’s pocket…

But eventually, as in all three of these cases, things get so brazen that the media notices; and then, if the money involved comes from taxpayers, politicians get all het up about it. As in this what the fuck? letter from Senator Charles Grassley to NIH. Grassley sends a copy to the notorious Donna Shalala.

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More coverage of the nettlesome Nemeroff.

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The latest University of Miami scandal jumps to the Miami Herald. Shalala and Nemeroff are trying out the no comment option, but I don’t think it’s going to work.

Apparently the experts at the Anxiety Disorders Association of America have themselves transcended …

… ALL forms of anxiety, including moral panic. You’d expect their organization’s recent appointment of the notorious Charles Nemeroff to their scientific council to have occasioned in them at least mild palpitations… But nah.

OTOH, there’s now a petition from some of their members asking them to rescind the appointment of the guy, which might produce a flutter or two…

If they do begin getting symptoms, they can consult their own Managing Stress in the Workplace page.

“The University of Pennsylvania has concluded that the chairman of its psychiatry department and a colleague let their names be listed among the authors reviewing a medicine in a journal article that was actually written by …

… the drug’s manufacturer.”

Yikes!

“No punitive action” will be taken.

Whew!

Wouldn’t want to disrupt the ghostwriting-for-pharma flow.

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UPDATE: A reader notes: “The poster boy for conflict of interest in psychiatry, Charles Nemeroff, was first author on the article in question.”

Nemeroff! Always Nemeroff! Your name from hence immortal life shall have.

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Why no punitive action? Because at the time Dwight L. Evans and Laszlo Gyulai put their name on a paper on which they did no work, there were no written rules at U Penn saying you shouldn’t put your name on a paper on which you did no work. A bioethics professor comments: “[S]tudents in grade school are taught the basic ethics of plagiarism.”

Remember: These are the sophisticated experts in whose hands you are placing your mental health.

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Droll comment thread at CHE:

This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which George was being fired by his boss for having sex with the cleaning lady on his desk. George’s paraphrased response: “Was that wrong? I gotta tell you, if I knew that wasn’t allowed here, I never would have done it.”

The Blight of Non-Disclosure…

… hit close to home for UD last year, with one of her colleagues in the econ dept (here’s the post about him) (and here’s the original article about the conflict of interest) failing to note that a paper of his offering “a strong argument for shrinking the role of the Federal Housing Administration in insuring mortgages… was at least partially underwritten by the private mortgage insurance giant Genworth Financial Inc., which stands to benefit from a pull back in the market by FHA.”

Turns out this sort of thing is all in a day’s work for a lot of economists, who, like some scientific researchers at universities (led in the enterprise, until recently, by Charles Nemeroff and Joseph Biederman), don’t see why it’s anyone’s effing business which corporation or interest group pays for (and maybe ghostwrites) their research.

The American Economic Association has now adopted a few COI rules.

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