a very long time…

Posted on Thursday 24 January 2013

[apropos of nothing, this evening’s sunset]

At my daughter’s graduation, the seniors were scheduled to march in through a historical arch on the side of the college square, but instead, carefully walked around it. It was a monument to ten student missionaries who had been killed in 1900 in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion. It took me weeks to figure out that they were protesting Imperialism. The Boxer Rebellion was a bloody affair opposing foreign presence and missionaries in China. It was ultimately suppressed by the Eight Nation Alliance [including the U.S.]. Who knew? But the point of my vignette is that students don’t forget, and their passion and idealism is hard to quell – something we relearned in the 1960s all over the world [and periodically before and since]. I thought of that story when I read this in the Brown Student paper…

U. will not back retraction of prof’s study
Allegations of a false study have led to ethical investigation of a former professor’s drug research
January 23, 2013

The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry will not retract a controversial study authored in 2001 by former Brown professor Martin Keller, according to a letter written by Andres Martin, the journal’s editor, last month. The Keller study, commonly referred to as Study 329, concluded that the drug Paxil was an effective treatment for adolescent depression. The study has been criticized for distorting data to reach its conclusion, The Herald  previous reported. Its authors have come under attack for their financial ties to Paxil parent company GlaxoSmithKline and have been accused of having the article ghostwritten by a GSK affiliate, The Herald reported. The Senate Finance Committee, a former Boston Globe medical writer, the BBC and, most recently, the Department of Justice have been among those to subject the study to ethical investigations in the 12 years since it was initially published.

The JAACAP conducted an internal investigation of the study following the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against GSK last summer but concluded the study was sound, according to Martin’s letter. In a $3 billion settlement, GSK admitted to selling several misbranded drugs, one of which was Paxil. In the plea agreement, the Department of Justice said the promotion of Paxil was based on Keller’s “false and misleading” study. GSK entered into the plea without agreeing to the accusations set forth in it, according to a transcript of the plea hearing, and the company specifically denied the claim that the study was “false and misleading” in a letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education last October.

Martin’s letter was addressed to Jon Jureidini, a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia and a member of the nonprofit Healthy Skepticism. Jureidini had written to Martin requesting that the JAACAP retract the study. A Healthy Skepticism representative had also written to the University in 2011, requesting support for the group’s request to have Keller’s article retracted. Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Edward Wing replied that the University would not support the retraction effort. A Healthy Skepticism representative wrote again to President Christina Paxson in September, asking that the University reconsider its position in light of the GSK settlement. The Herald received copies of each letter from Healthy Skepticism. The group did not receive a response from Paxson, Jureidini said.

“The University conducted a thorough and impartial review of Dr. Keller’s involvement in Study 329 more than a decade ago,” Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, wrote to The Herald in an email. “The decision by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry does not suggest that any further action by the University is warranted.” The University previously said the GSK settlement did not mandate additional investigation into Keller’s research, The Herald reported in September. Keller, a former professor of psychiatry and human behavior, stepped down from his chair position in 2009 and resigned from his professor position last summer. He could not be reached for comment.

Despite Martin’s response, members of Healthy Skepticism plan to continue efforts to have the study retracted, said Leemon McHenry, a member of Healthy Skepticism and co-author of the letters to the University. McHenry is also a faculty member at California State University in Northridge. “The fact that we’ve got these people that keep denying what’s obvious to most people and what’s obvious to the Department of Justice seems like some conspiracy theory to me,” McHenry said. “I’m not sure what to make of it.” But the number of adolescent suicides resulting from prescriptions of Paxil encourages the study’s critics to push for retraction.

“The false and misleading statements in the paper are still being cited by other authors as the truth, and the paper is still being used to market Paxil for teenagers,” said David Egilman, the clinical professor of family medicine at Alpert Medical School who had initially approached the University about possible misconduct by Keller. “And as a result, some teenagers are committing suicide.”

Martin did not return a request for comment.

Here’s last year’s version…

U. will not support Keller retraction
February 3, 2012
The University will not support an effort to retract a controversial study co-authored by Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Martin Keller, wrote Edward Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences, in a recent letter to the global nonprofit Healthy Skepticism. The study — commonly referred to as Study 329 — identified the drug Paxil as an effective combatant of adolescent depression. Since its publication in 2001, the study has raised concerns due to findings that link Paxil to higher rates of suicidal tendencies.
Citing claims that Keller’s study intentionally misrepresented the effectiveness of Paxil by suppressing data, Healthy Skepticism asked the University to write to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and request a retraction of the findings, The Herald reported in November. Jon Jureidini, a co-author of the Healthy Skepticism letters and a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia, received Wing’s most recent reply on Monday. In an email to The Herald, Jureidini wrote that Healthy Skepticism would not be discouraged by the University’s response, though he added he was unsure how the group would proceed. "One hopes that universities are leaders in moral and scientific integrity, but how can they expect students to acquire such values when their behavior directly contradicts their stated policies?" wrote Healthy Skepticism co-author Leemon McHenry in an email to The Herald. McHenry is also a researcher, lecturer and part-time professor at California State University in Northridge…

And one from 2008…

Accountable academics
September 24, 2008

As students at Brown, we have grown accustomed to having professors and peers illumine our lives with insight and understanding. From the classroom to the gym and from the Ratty to the Main Green, we have all grown intellectually through our interactions with other members of the Brown community. Given the importance of this interaction, we expect professors to enrich our understanding with academic insight supported by unimpeachable scholarship. And we anticipate that our peers will be academically responsible as well.

Consequently, it’s troubling to learn that Martin Keller, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior, has been accused of suppressing the link between the antidepressant Paxil and suicidal tendencies among adolescents in a drug study. Moreover, the fact that Keller may have taken money from GlaxoSmithKline, Paxil’s maker, without disclosing the amount is problematic to the Brown community and to the country more generally. While we do not pre-judge the allegations against Keller, we do believe that his actions directly affect the integrity of the University.

What we do and who we are as a university is predicated upon an implied social contract of intellectual trust and personal reliability. As students, we expect our professors to act with integrity just as our professors demand that of us. And the obligations we owe to each other extend beyond Brown to the community at large. It is a troubling reality for students to realize that the work of their professors, let alone their peers, may lack integrity. After all, we understandably want our academic experience at Brown to enrich us. So students reject the prospect of anything that might undermine that experience. And they demand the bona fides of the information shared in lectures, seminars and even day-to-day conversation. Indeed, they recognize that the credibility of this information is the currency that underlies all the intellectual exchanges we make.

However, as we consider the broader implications of the Keller allegations, we do think it is important to remember that professors are accountable for the honesty of their intellectual work and discourse as well. We suggest an edit to our academic code. The Academic Code as presented on the University’s Web site, states that in the case of "Misrepresentations of facts, significant omissions, or falsifications in any connection with the academic process … students are penalized accordingly." This code should be applied to both professors and students. For insofar as the Brown community is fostered by a direct dialogue between students and faculty, a demand for academic integrity should be imposed on all members of the University.

I had the fantasy there might be another such Brown Daily Herald article on March 29th, 2014 [03/29/2014], or maybe arm bands at Brown graduation that said 329. But the fantasy passed quickly [Brown is not my daughter’s college, a place where protest was almost a matriculation requirement]. But the thought lingered. If there’s a characteristic of late adolescence [college years], it’s that the no-longer-kids have been required to master the earlier adolescent love affair with rationalizations. College professors won’t buy "the dog ate my homework"  – those excuses after the fact where logic is a toy rather than a tool. Late adolescents see right through the rationalizations of those above them – something like, "If I you won’t let me get away with that anymore, I’ll be damned if I’ll listen to it coming from you."

Brown’s new president, Christina Hull Paxson, would do well to listen to the music in these commentaries. It’s asking her for something that would take some courage on her part, perhaps a memory or two of her own. But it would give her students something that would ripple through their lives [and her presidency] for a very long time…
    berit bj
    January 25, 2013 | 6:48 AM

    President Christina should heed the students and muster whatever courage needed to rise to their challenge. Is the president being a woman reason for hope? Here, three formidable women saved the country from the trap set by leading forensic shrinks of finding the terrorist Anders Breivik not guilty because of insanity. An autonomous forensic psychiatrist, an autonomous presiding judge, an equally autonomous lawyer heading the 22.7 commission, finding systematic governmental failures, averted the preset course of events, as institutional psychiatry thoroughly shamed itself in front of TV-cameras and the eyes of the world. One may hope that president Christina of Brown University is an autonomous woman, mindful of her greater responsibility and the many eyes now watching her, that she rises to the challenge of giving notice, not only to the corrupt professor Maritn Keller, but to the world, that the global blockbuster Paxil from Big Pharma gigant GSK was a trap preset by a Brown-professor, doing little good and massive harm on a global scale.

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