Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Great Conversation

"Tonight, fork over $20 for a talk about research. Or pay nothing to talk about a corporatized University."  From Gil Rodman, writing in the Daily.

Glaxo's Avandia Cover-up

Paul Thacker, a former congressional investigator for the United States Senate Finance Committee, tells how GSK concealed the risks of its blockbuster diabetes drug, Avandia. Read it in Mother Jones.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cerra's mixed legacy

Thomas Lee reports on the ethical scandals and lapses at the University of Minnesota during the tenure of Frank Cerra, the outgoing head of the Academic Health Center.  Read it in Med City News.

More great Daily reporting

Our own Tara Bannow has a front-page story about yesterday's appellate court decision to temporarily lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

"This is a news website article about a scientific paper"

The parody version, in The Guardian.  Read it and cringe.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Minn. Daily update on film controversy

Our own Jessie Van Berkel has a front-page story in today's Daily about more trouble for the U over "Troubled Waters." The story is here.

New York Times reviews Carl's new book

You can find the review in the Times' health section, right under a recipe for "rice sticks with walnut and basil pesto and green beans." The review is here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

1975 Flashback: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Attention, health journalists: Pfizer wants you

Pfizer may have three felony convictions, but that doesn't mean it's not a good friend to health journalists.  And as Gary Schwitzer reports, the National Press Foundation is in on the scam.  Read about it here.

Psychedelic Psychiatry: upcoming lecture by Erika Dyck

"Psychedelic Psychiatry: An Historical Look at LSD Experiments in the 1950s"

Erika Dyck, Ph.D, University of Saskatchewan
A Dorothy Bernstein Lecture in the History of Psychiatry
12:20 – 1:10 p.m. in Room 555, Diehl Hall

September 30: Reclaiming the University

Reclaiming the University: Fulfilling Our Promise to Students and the Public
Thursday, September 30, 5:00-6:30pm in Blegen Hall 5
We are told that the university is in crisis. The administration claims the crisis is created by reductions in public support. Yet even before the recent cuts in state appropriations, the University was doing a poor job fulfilling its educational mission as a land-grant institution. Skyrocketing tuition has limited access to our state's flagship university, the milking of tuition-generating units to fund initiatives unrelated to education has diminished the quality of instruction, and the pursuit of private sources of revenue has compromised the institution's ethics and academic integrity. This critical conversation about higher education will illuminate why higher education is failing the public, and consider how collective action can change this situation.

Speakers:
Carl Elliott, Professor, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota
"A Fatal Drug Study at the University of Minnesota and Why It will Happen Again" - on the tragic story of Dan Markingson, a mentally ill young man who died in a clinical trial conducted at the University of Minnesota. The case exposes stunning ethical lapses at the U, lapses that are likely to recur without major structural changes.

Gary Rhoades, General Secretary of the American Association of University Professors
"Reclaiming the Public Promise of Public Higher Education" - on how prioritizing private, institutional, and corporate interests in pursuit of revenue and rankings has undercut the public responsibilities and functions of public universities.

Sofia Shank, campus activist and Women's Studies major at the University of Minnesota
"The Legacy of Bruininks's 'Strategic Positioning': Tracing the Direction of the University" - on the consequences of strategic positioning for students at the University of Minnesota, and organizing for change.

Moderated by Karen Ho, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UofM

Sponsored by Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education - umnfaculty.blogspot.com -
and Education Action Coalition MN - october7mn.org
Thursday, September 30, 5:00-6:30pm in Blegen Hall 5

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Markingson death: extended coverage in the Daily

The Daily speaks out again about the death of Dan Markingson at the U.  Read it here.

U on Troubled Waters: "Never Mind"

So Troubled Waters will be shown after all, on the originally scheduled date.  Read about it here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Minnesota Monthly: The Case of the Curious Disease


First: there's a museum of Spam?! Class field trip?

Second: a bit of medical journalism right here in our own back yard.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bruininks backs university PR official

"University of Minnesota vice president Karen Himle is under fire for canceling the broadcast of a university-produced documentary about farming, pollution and the Mississippi River.  The Land Stewardship Project has called for Himle's resignation, and questioned whether she may have a conflict of interest in the dispute."  But Bob Bruininks has issued a statement of support.  Read about it in the Strib.

Rebecca Skloot on Fresh Air


Rebecca Skloot talks about her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, on "Fresh Air."  To listen, click here.  (The transcript is here.)

The continuing PR fiasco at the U

"The latest wrinkle in the Troubled Waters controversy is that the University doesn't 'own' the film," writes Molly Priesmeyer in the TC Daily Planet.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thacker speaks

Paul Thacker, the pharmaceutical industry's worst enemy for the past three years, speaks about his pharma investigations for Sen. Charles Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee.  Read about it at Pharmalot.

A cut that divides

"Members of the Somali community are torn over whether to condone a mild form of female circumcision as a rite of passage.  Some believe U.S. doctors should be allowed to perform the procedure.  Others are happy to do away with it."  Tara Bannow of the Minnesota Daily (and our class) reports here.

The troubling story of "Troubled Waters"

More news on the "Troubled Waters" fiasco in the Daily, reported by one of our own.  Read all about it here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals

Coming soon (release date: October 1, 2010.)

"Against a backdrop of virtual intercourse, online porn, and burgeoning Viagra sales, Sex, Lies, and Pharmaceuticals reveals how women’s sexual difficulties are being repackaged as symptoms of a new disorder. In this compelling book, award-winning journalist Ray Moynihan teams up with drug assessment specialist Barbara Mintzes to investigate the creation of female sexual dysfunction or FSD, and the marketing machine that promises to "cure" it. The authors go inside the corridors of medical power to visit drug company–sponsored scientific meetings and medical education events where doctors are being trained to see women’s sexual problems as the symptoms of FSD — a pharmaceutically treatable condition. Moynihan and Mintzes explore the underlying causes of sexual dissatisfaction among women and expose how global drug companies exploit those problems in an attempt to create the next billion dollar disease."

Read about investigative health journalist Ray Moynihan here.

Testing a cancer treatment by withholding a drug

An excellent front-page article in the New York Times explores the ethics of clinical trial design in cases where lives are at stake -- namely, two cousins with a deadly melanoma.  Read it here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why does Minnesota rank last in the country in disciplining unethical doctors?

Bill Heisel's recent post on Minnesota doctors behaving badly revives a question that has been floating around for years.  Why does Minnesota discipline fewer doctors than any other state?  The Strib reported the story (again) last year, but here is the original, more comprehensive report, at Public Citizen. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Legal but unethical

Alice Dreger on the death of Dan Markingson, in The Bioethics Forum.

Doctors behaving badly

Health reporter William Heisel writes:

"If you were going to make a bet on which doctor lost his license in Minnesota, who would you choose?

The doctor who didn’t pay his taxes?

The doctor who repeatedly had female patients undress in front of him, asked them to assume unusual positions while undressed and then touched their genitals without explaining why?

If you chose the tax laggard, you win. If you are a female patient in Minnesota, you may be losing."

Read Heisel's story on his Antidote blog here.

A righteous cop silenced

On this week's episode of This American Life is the harrowing, deeply disquieting story of Adrian  Schoolcraft, a NYC cop who secretly recorded his supervisors instructing him to manipulate crime statistics and make illegal arrests.  When his secret came out, his supervisors labelled him mentally ill and had him involuntarily committed.   The audio is here; Schoolcraft's story begins at around 17 minutes in.  The Village Voice investigative report that broke the story is here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Did the U pull the plug on a muckraking film?

"Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story has been nearly four years in the making. A team of researchers, filmmakers, and scientists have been up and down the Mississippi River, knee deep in swamps and icy waters, and elbow deep in footage and research. The film, by the U of M's Bell Museum of Natural History, focuses on agriculture, pollution, and sustainable solutions. Now, suddenly, its premiere has been canceled, and no one can say exactly why."  Is a relationship between the U and agribusiness to blame?  Read the story in the Twin Cities Daily Planet.  (Or The Strib.  Or the City Pages blog.)

Gina Kolata corrected

The New York Times has published three corrections to Gina Kolata's extraordinarily (and misleadingly) enthusiastic article about a new test for Alzheimer's Disease.  Read the article here and scroll to the bottom for corrections.

South Carolina Republican Leader dresses up as Confederate officer with fake slaves

As a famous son of my home state said in 1861, "South Carolina is too small to be a republic, and too large to be an insane asylum."  Read about the scandal in a local newspaper, or go to the blogger at Fitnews who broke the story.  .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ira Glass explains how to tell a story

A reporting life

Lillian Ross talks about her 65 years at The New Yorker.  Listen here.

Things could be worse... (right?)

Remember thalidomide? The drug that caused severe birth defects when taken by pregnant women, available in the mid 20th century? The fact that this drug is no longer prescribed is thanks to Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey. Dr. Kelsey, now 96 years old, "helped write the rules that now govern nearly every clinical trial in the industrialized world, and was the first official to oversee them," according to an article published by the New York Times. Read more about Dr. Kelsey and the 50th anniversary of Kelsey's involvement in strengthening the FDA, here.

(An observation: At nearly the same time that Kelsey influenced FDA policy, Henrietta Lacks' cancerous cervical cells gave birth to HeLa cells, said to have now been reproducing in labs across the world to the extent that when laid side to side, they would wrap around the globe three times over. Lacks' cells have been undeniably instrumental to medical progress, yet Henrietta Lacks, an African American, was given little credit for her "immortal cells." Kelsey, on the other hand, also a woman whose existence was instrumental to medical progress, received immediate recognition with regard to her role in developing clinical trial guidelines for the FDA. Granted, Lacks didn't intentionally make her cells useful to medicine - that happened without her control - yet there seems to be some sort of uncanny resemblance between the roles of these two women in the history of medical progress. Kelsey, however, unlike Lacks, has always received the recognition she has deserved. Kelsey's getting a proverbial foot in the medical door, the Times article reports, was a result of her first name looking like a man's name. Lacks didn't have such an advantage.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sheri Fink talks about investigating in New Orleans

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The secret lives of "thought leaders"

Why do so many academic physicians sign over their souls to pharma?  There is the money, of course.  But it's also about the status.  Read more in The Chronicle Review,