Thursday, October 27, 2011

A decade after after duping bioethicists, Lilly pulls the plug on Xigris

Remember Xigris?  The enormously expensive sepsis drug that Lilly hyped by buying off bioethicists?  Ten years after its launch, a new study has shown that Xigris does not help patients live longer, so Lilly is pulling the drug from the market.  Read about it here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

How academic health centers intimidate patients

Attorneys for the University of Minnesota and Duke University have used bare-knuckled corporate litigation tactics to silence patients, says Matt Lamkin at Stanford's Center for Law and Biosciences.  Read the article here.

Utne Reader Visionaries: Alice Dreger

From the Utne Reader, which has named Alice Dreger of Northwestern University one of its 2011 Visionaries:

"Alice Dreger has made it her life’s work to investigate, and at times expose, the unethical medical treatment of people who have intersex conditions. 'I either get love mail or hate mail,' explains the Northwestern University bioethicist and medical historian. The hate mail comes from people whose bad deeds she reveals, the love mail from people thanking her for 'saving their lives.'"

Read more here. 

Harvard Pool Party in Protest against Merck

From the Harvard Crimson:

"A group of Harvard global health activists staged a protest Friday in front of Merck’s laboratory near the Harvard Medical School to urge the drug company to provide discounted HIV and AIDS medicine to poor countries."

"The protest was billed as a “pool party demonstration”—replete with beach balls, an inflatable pool, and students in swim trunks—to demand that Merck “jump into the pool,” a reference to the Medicine Patent Pool."

"The Medicine Patent Pool is an organization that negotiates deals with drug companies to ensure the availability in low-income and middle-income countries of discounted medicine to fight the human immunodeficiency virus. In many of these countries, drugs to fight the disease are far too expensive to be affordable to ordinary individuals. The deals struck by the Medicine Patent Pool seek to reduce costs while also attempting to ensure that the companies are minimally impacted by the discounts."

Read the rest of the story here.

AAUP Event: The Value of Higher Education

The Value of Higher Education
MN AAUP 2011 Fall Forum
Nov. 2, 6:00 pm, Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center 100E

Your department is shrinking.  Your program is being downsized.  You are continually asked to do more with less, and your students are made to pay more for less.  You aim to teach but you are told to produce learning outcomes instead.  You study fundamental questions and you are asked what profit that will yield.  Is this what you got a degree for?  Is this why you labor in the fields of academe?

Under the cover of financial crisis, education from K-12 to the doctoral level is being restructured in market terms. This framework dictates more, cheaper, and faster delivery of products – measured by enrollment figures, graduation rates, numbers of degrees produced, etc. – reducing our students and ourselves to fungible units of revenue and expense. As resources are reallocated according to this logic the real value of education, research, and scholarship is elided.

The MN AAUP is hosting a panel discussion about the value and valuing of higher education. The panel brings together speakers representing private and public institutions, faculty and administration, and the legislature as well. Please join us and participate in the discussion! No cost; light refreshments provided. Contact MN AAUP Past President Karen Vogel ( to RSVP by October 28. Space is limited – reserve your seat today.

Event Details
State Representative Terry Morrow (DFL-23A)
Dr. Richard Davenport (President – Minnesota State University Mankato)
Professor William Beeman (Anthropology - University of Minnesota)
Professor Ananya Chatterjea (Theater Arts and Dance - University of Minnesota)
Professor Michael Livingston (Psychology - St. John’s University).
Professor Eva von Dassow (Classical and Near Eastern Studies - University of Minnesota)
Time and Location:
Wednesday, November 2, 2011. Reception at 6:00 pm; panel discussion from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 100E. See:

The AAUP, founded in 1915, seeks to advance academic freedom and shared governance, define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and ensure higher education's contribution to the common good.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The moral duties of guinea pigs

Bill Gleason reports on the recent conference at the University of Minnesota: "Do people have an obligation to participate in research?"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How about some sunshine at the New York Times?

Fifty journalists and journalism professors have asked the New York Times to start disclosing the conflicts of interest of its op-ed writers.  According to, a project of the Checks and Balances Project, "Everyday, industry-funded pundits, masquerading as unbiased experts, have their commentary published and aired by influential media outlets. Often, their commentary raises issues that have a direct financial stake for their funders. Rarely – if ever – are we informed that the “expert” has gotten money from the industry they're championing. Why? Top news outlets don’t bother to ask these pundits about their conflicts."

Read about it in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Prakash book about Vioxx is a "first-rate legal thriller"

From Barron's, praise for All the Justice Money Can Buy:

"Make this one book that can't be judged by its cover. You would think it belongs on a shelf next to screeds by Michael Moore. That's too bad, since readers may unwittingly pass up this nuanced and humorous story of superlawyer Mark Lanier's high-stakes trial against pharmaceutical giant Merck."
"Author Snigdha Prakash was embedded in the legal team representing two plaintiffs, who in turn served as test cases for a large pool of people making similar claims. The seven-week trial determined whether Merck failed to warn doctors adequately about research indicating that Vioxx, its blockbuster prescription painkiller, caused heart attacks. Readers seeking a rigorous, impartial evaluation of the merits of the litigation should look elsewhere. But as an inside account of an extraordinary team of lawyers at work, All the Justice Money Can Buy is a first-rate legal thriller."

Read the rest of the review by Marie Gryphon here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Any fool can have a baby, it takes a smart woman to get paid for it.”

So says a potential surrogate mom in India, where babies are cheap.  Read it in the NY Times.

Why you should ignore your cancer

Do PSA tests for prostate cancer really save lives?  Probably not, write Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee.  And the cost of treatment may be impotence.  Read it in the New York Times Magazine.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Academic Freedom in Peril

John K. Wilson in Inside Higher Ed, on the dire state of academic freedom at Northwestern.  Read it here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Basson inquiry update

From the Daily Maverick, an update on the hearing of Dr. Wouter Basson, who led the South African apartheid government's biological warfare program.

"Basson’s lawyer Jaap Cilliers is one of those hectoring, pushy, wrong side of rude advocates. He has this air of exasperation, an expression that says: if only you could see that I’m right, we could all pack up and go home, but you don’t so I’m just going to have to push you. It’s not pleasant. At the other end of the crease, Professor Steven Miles – calm, polite and seemingly unflappable. He gives every impression of relishing his time under cross-examination. We’ve suggested before that Miles is a professional at this. Scratch that. He’s world-class, first pick for anyone selecting a best of the World XI to take on the team from Mars."

Read it here.