Twin Cities' CityPages: "Is U of M dept. of psychiatry in pocket of AstraZeneca?"

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The story of Dan Markingson’s suicide while enrolled in a University of Minnesota trial of the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel is being told once again, this time on the front page of CityPages. It focuses on continued – but still unresolved – scrutiny of the head of the University’s psychiatry department, Dr. Charles Schulz. Excerpts:

“MARKINGSON’S SUICIDE HAS cast a harsh spotlight on the University of Minnesota psychiatry department. The Federal Drug Administration, the Attorney General’s Office, and the college’s Internal Review Board all wanted to know how a 26-year-old research subject ended up dead.

So did his mom. After a year of combing through studies and public records, (she) filed a malpractice suit against Schulz and the U of M, accusing them of putting Big Pharma’s bottom line ahead of her son’s mental health.

In December, a group of eight bioethicists at the U of M wrote a letter to the college’s Board of Regents, demanding the appointment of an independent board to investigate whether lapses in ethics and judgment led to Markingson’s suicide.

“This goes beyond everything and anything, and this should have brought the house down on the university,” says Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a patient-advocacy group. “There has to be zero tolerance, because a lot hangs on it, including lives.”

The issue will soon come to a head. The U of M has been investigating a complaint about Schulz’s connections to Big Pharma and is expected to issue the results in a matter of weeks.

“If there’s any question that the investigation was superficial, it ought to be by an independent group that can determine what the facts are,” says Jerome P. Kassirer, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, who is familiar with the circumstances surrounding the Markingson case. “It looks worrisome to me.”

If you haven’t heard this saga before, the CityPages >3,000-word story will give you much of the background.

Here’s a screenshot of the University’s psychiatry department’s web page.

Schulz UMN.jpg

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