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Well-deserved journalism award on clinical trial ethics story

St. Paul Pioneer Press reporters Jeremy Olson and Paul Tosto have been awarded a Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Award for their series on the death of Dan Markingson in a clinical trial at the University of Minnesota.

The Premack judges wrote: “Through the eyes of one patient, this story shed considerable light on the complicated and competing interests between the development and path to market of new drugs, funding needs of the University and the integrity of medical research. The judges are hopeful that the new ethics task force implemented at the U of M is resulting in changes in conflict of interest policies.”

Also this week, Professor Carl Elliott of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics published an editorial in the Pioneer Press, “Create counterweights to the influence of money on drug studies,” regarding the Markingson story. In it he concludes:

“Any serious attempt to clean up industry-sponsored research must do at least two things. First, it must minimize the internal pressure faced by researchers to raise money for their departments. Second, it must eliminate the external financial incentives that lead researchers to recruit patients into studies instead of giving them proven treatment. Unless these conflicts of interests are eliminated, universities will continue to repeat the mistakes that preceded the death of Dan Markingson.”

Congratulations to Olson, Tosto, and the Pioneer Press for this terrific investigative piece. Kudos to Professor Elliott for addressing the ongoing ethical issues in clinical trials.

We can’t lose this kind of important contribution in daily journalism at the local level.

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