“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?

“The Japanese sales arm of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis contributed around ¥570 million to Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine and Jikei University School of Medicine that conducted the clinical studies from 2002. A Novartis Pharma employee, who has since left the company, participated in the studies.”

Just a reminder – and an update – of one of the biggest pharma scandals of the year. Background on this one here. Basically the company gave humongous money to the university, which duly manipulated data for the company’s benefit. In turn, the company duly advertised its product by touting the results it had paid for.

Whoring for pharma: Happening also at a university near you.

“The study was led by professor Hiroaki Matsubara, and included among its researchers an un-named Novartis employee, who was identified as an adjunct lecturer at Osaka City University.”

No better way to optimize your Novartis-funded results on a Novartis drug than to place a Novartis employee on your faculty and put that person in charge of statistical results. This research protocol all but guarantees that your results will be in line with corporate efforts in this case to establish the drug as effective for pretty much any human ill you can think of. And that is just what happened!

The Novartis plant held the same position in four other Japanese university labs. Truly an impressive effort on the drug-maker’s part.

“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.

Think Skanks.

It’s so much easier to whore yourself when you’re a think tank than when you’re a university. Think tanks don’t really have any of the public accountability universities do. Washington think tanks are increasingly set up to make money by prostituting their intellectual work to paying foreign governments. Pressure is building for some of them to do the decent thing and register as foreign agents.

“It is particularly egregious because with a law firm or lobbying firm, you expect them to be an advocate,” [says one observer]. “Think tanks have this patina of academic neutrality and objectivity, and that is being compromised.”

UD ain’t sayin’ some professors at some universities (some departments at universities) don’t get away sometimes with whoring themselves to corporations and governments. This blog couldn’t stay in business without global pharma having its way on a semi-regular basis with some universities, and without econ professors issuing custom-built papers the real estate industry, for instance, pays them to write… She is saying that, as in the recent dual but failed assault on the university’s virtue by rich Jonnie Williams and handsome Governor Vaginal Probe, American universities tend to do a pretty good job of defending ye olde patina.

Think tanks? Meh.

The Uses of the University.

Ex-Yeshiva University trustee Bernie Madoff knew it, and current Yeshiva University trustee Zygi Wilf knows it. Universities are sunny places for shady people. They shed moral legitimacy. When we hear a person’s an officer and a benefactor of universities we get all warm and runny inside. Good man! Hip hip!

Universities also shed intellectual legitimacy. Let’s say you’re peddling a dietary supplement that probably does jack shit. You however wish to claim it cures all human ills so that you can become a billionaire. You need to give someone at a university – or in a governor’s mansion – enough money to get some legitimate studies of the thing going.

Yes, yes, I know what you’re saying. Catch-22. If it’s a legitimate university, the results won’t go your way.

But you’re only saying that because you lack imagination. The point is to smuggle your guys into the university. Look what Novartis did in Japan! Look what Star Scientific – the diet supplement guys – did at Hopkins!

Earlier this year, Star Scientific disclosed a federal investigation of its securities transactions, and several of the company’s shareholders have subsequently filed lawsuits in federal court — and this month in Richmond Circuit Court — alleging that the company misled its investors about scientific research on Anatabloc.

The lawsuits have focused on the company’s statements about research by two scientists who work at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The research looked at anatabine’s potential for treating certain types of thyroid disease, but Star Scientific’s stock price took a hit after Johns Hopkins University said the researchers were acting as consultants for the company and not on behalf of the university.

Fine, Catch-23. You might get caught. But a few bad outcomes don’t mean that there aren’t universities just sitting there waiting for you to use them to legitimate your crap. Not all universities are like the University of Virginia which despite the free wheewheewheewhee in a private jet some of its scientists got courtesy of Star Scientific still said no:

According to the indictment, researchers from the University flew by private jet with Virginia’s first lady to a Maryland symposium hosted by Star Scientific in July 2011. It also details a meeting between [the head of Star Scientific] and “senior UVA administrators” in November of that year to discuss UVA “taking the lead role” in seeking state grants to research Star Scientific’s top product. Bob McDonnell allegedly supported the proposal, but the University eventually declined, as evidenced by a string of correspondence months later.

One e-mail included in the indictment has Maureen McDonnell complaining to a staffer: “Gov wants to know why nothing has developed w studies after [Williams] gave $200,000.”

I mean put it together, people! You know you’re gonna get the grants because the governor’s gonna make sure you get them. Win-win! But no – some fuckwits at UVA decide to care about wasting their time and whoring themselves instead of doing actual research. Gawd.

“Fans have been led to pretend that the violence is merely ancillary. But to say that violence isn’t at the heart of football is a lie. Remove the violence, and you remove what is great about the game…”

It is – and always has been – curious to UD, as an observer of universities, that the most violent and mindless game out there totally dominates America’s universities. Universities, where the main thing, you figure, is the mind, get positively orgasmic about, and spend themselves into bankruptcy over, a game which we now know pummels the mind to mush.

Forget the body. Of course we know – quoting John Kass again here –

The game is not just a contact sport — it’s a high-impact collision sport. It is about exploding into your opponent, refusing to break, while breaking others to your will and knocking them senseless.

But Kass also notes that “football scrambles the human brain.” He notes the massive and growing numbers of lawsuits coming from high school, college, and professional teams, as players literally lose their minds. Kass predicts football itself will die in the next few decades.


UD, however, doubts it. Why? Here’s Kass again:

Make no mistake. I loved football. I loved it desperately. Even now, four decades later, I remember endlessly damning myself for being too small to play it at a big-time college. I ached for it, for the violence of it…

Universities, at least according to this guy, can’t survive without a foundation of violent tribal ritual:

It is irrational and tribal love. It is intense emotion, not a vague sense of obligation or philanthropy. [Students and alumni] want to beat State.

Read his heavy-breathing about “shirtless boys” and ask yourself whether passions like these can ever be tamed. Whether the American university can survive without them. Already – in coach buyouts alone – university football is destroying the financial foundation of many schools. Those same schools will not hesitate to pay out hundreds of millions more in personal injury claims.

The model here will be big pharma. As a corporate endeavor, pharma cheats and injures, but as long as it can afford to pay out billions every year in legal settlements and still make a big profit, it will continue to do so. Universities will hit up students for higher and higher athletic fees, and students – even more subject to these passions than alumni, it seems – will willingly give.


UD thanks mwm.

Lack of impulse control isn’t healthy.

And yet the head of a federal panel that will be issuing health guidelines for the rest of us has been unable to resist drug company money. She

has been a member of speaker bureaus for two drug companies, Daiichi Sankyo and Novartis. Some universities prohibit faculty involvement with speaker bureaus to avoid claims of marketing.

“The fact is you get pursued by the companies,” Dr. Oparil said. “On some occasions, I’ve said yes to them.”

The girl can’t help it.

Latest UD posts at IHE