Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Conflict of Interest

Drug Research Contracts: Keeping Pharmaceutical companies out of reach from procsecution?

An article published in the NYT in November 29, 2004

“Of the 12 studies for (the church of Pfizer), all 5 of the reports claiming positive results, meaning the drug worked without worrisome side effects, that were submitted for possible regulatory approval were published.

The 7 other studies were inconclusive or negative, which can mean that the drug failed to work or that the test failed because of its design.

(Two of the studies were never submitted to the Food and Drug Administration to support an application for the drug’s approval.)”

“In her Zoloft study, Dr. Wagner acknowledged that she had received “research support” over the years from several drug manufacturers including Pfizer, which paid $80,000 to the Galveston center in connection with the Zoloft test.

But she did not state that she also received sizable payments from the company for work she did related to the study.”

Dr. Karen Dineen Wagner of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Published in November 29, 2004 under “Contracts Keep Drug Research Out of Reach”

(Page 3 of 5)

Dr. Wagner, vice chairwoman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Galveston center, declined to be interviewed for this article but did reply to some questions in writing. Officials of the Galveston center insisted that the industry money she received did not affect her work.

A Researcher’s Role

It was hardly surprising that many manufacturers of popular antidepressants already approved for use in adults would turn to an established researcher like Dr. Wagner to test them in young patients.

In the late 1990’s, she was one of a small number of researchers with experience in testing drugs intended to treat children with problems like attention deficit disorder and bipolar disorder.

Over the last decade, Dr. Wagner has led or worked on some 20 studies published in medical journals, and the government has financed some of her work.

She has also attracted a large number of including those aimed at testing whether antidepressants approved for use in adults were safe and effective in children and adolescents.

Dr. Wagner’s role varied in 12 industry-sponsored trials in which antidepressants were tested against placebos for depression or other problems. On three of them, including a Zoloft trial, she was a lead investigator, working with company researchers to plan, analyze and write results up for publication.

On the others, her duties were limited to overseeing test patients at her clinic.

Of the 12 studies, all five of the reports claiming positive results, meaning the drug worked without worrisome side effects, that were submitted for possible regulatory approval were published. The seven other studies were inconclusive or negative, which can mean that the drug failed to work or that the test failed because of its design. (Two of them were never submitted to the Food and Drug Administration to support an application for the drug’s approval.)

Because many of the antidepressant studies were unpublished, many doctors never heard about the results.

Their findings were typically disclosed in limited settings, like talks at meetings of medical specialists or on a poster displayed in a room with dozens of other posters, which is a typical way of disseminating research results at professional conferences.

Several researchers who worked on the pediatric antidepressant trials said that in many cases they had little incentive to submit ambiguous or failed trials to medical journals because they thought the papers would be rejected by journal editors.

One of those researchers, Dr. Neal Ryan, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, said there has typically been little publishing interest in studies with inconclusive findings or those that failed to work because of study design, a type sometimes referred to as a negative study.

“No one gets famous from publishing negative studies,” Dr. Ryan said.

In response to a question, Dr. Wagner wrote that in all the cases where she was the lead investigator, test results had been or would soon be published or presented at medical meetings.

It was her study of Zoloft for childhood depression, financed by Pfizer, that attracted the most attention and criticism. Results were published last summer in The Journal of the American Medical Association as the debate on pediatric antidepressant use was rising; the study concluded that the drug effectively treated depression.

The finding received widespread publicity in newspapers, including The New York Times.

“This study is both clinically and statistically significant,” Dr. Wagner said last year. “The medication was effective.”

But some academic researchers said that the difference in improvement that the study found between young depressed patients taking Zoloft and similar patients who received a placebo – 10 percentage points – was not substantial.

Asked about complaints about the trial, Dr. Wagner referred to a statement in The Journal of the American Medical Association in which she responded last year to critical letters.

In that statement, Dr. Wagner said she believed that the 10 percentage point difference was “clinically meaningful.”

A Possible Conflict (of interest?)

In her Zoloft study, Dr. Wagner acknowledged that she had received “research support” over the years from several drug manufacturers including Pfizer, which paid $80,000 to the Galveston center in connection with the Zoloft test. But she did not state that she also received sizable payments from the company for work she did related to the study.

Note: Dr. Karen Dineen Wagner participated in more than a dozen industry-financed pediatric trials of antidepressants and other types of drugs from 1998 to 2001.

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Washington Post’s new Jerusalem correspondent married to pro-Israel propagandist. Isn’t this appointment a Conflict of Interest?

Ruth Eglash, the Washington Post’s recently hired Jerusalem correspondent, has what could be a serious conflict of interest – her husband’s political and business ties to the Israeli government and its overseas propaganda apparatus…

The Washington Post’s conflict of interest policy states:

This newspaper is pledged to avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest, wherever and whenever possible. We have adopted stringent policies on these issues, conscious that they may be more restrictive than is customary in the world of private business.

Relatives cannot fairly be made subject to Post rules, but it should be recognized that their employment or their involvement in causes can at least appear to compromise our integrity. The business and professional ties of traditional family members or other members of your household must be disclosed to department heads.

Ali Abunimah submitted in The Electronic Intifada on Sept. 18, 2013.

The newspaper refuses to say if Eglash disclosed her husband’s activities to her bosses as company policy demands.

Ruth own reporting and activities indicate that Eglash has difficulties providing fair and dispassionate coverage regarding Palestinians.

Eglash, who joined the Washington Post in April, was previously deputy managing editor of the far right-wing Jerusalem Post.

Ruth Eglash at the 2010 United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Rio Forum (Flickr)

Close ties to Israeli government, army and anti-Palestinian propaganda

The husband Michael Eglash is president of the marketing firm Upstart Ideas.

Michael Eglash, who hails from Milwaukee, has been deeply involved in efforts to promote Israel and Israeli government policy for years and this is now his main business.

His firm lists among its past and present clients and close partners numerous Israeli government and Israeli-government backed entities including the the Ministry of Tourism, Taglit-Birthright Israel and the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

The JNF is deeply involved in the ongoing forced removals of Palestinian Bedouins from their ancestral lands in the Naqab (Negev) region.

Eglash’s company provides “marketing analysis, strategic recommendations and full service implementation of marketing campaign and recruitment strategy for a range of Israel programs,” according to its website.

Upstart Ideas says that it “helped to establish the wildly successful ‘Hasbara Fellowships’ organization and … worked extensively with JNF’s Caravan for Democracy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Jewish Agency for Israel and Hillel.”

The company also claims that “Our marketing strategies have turned small Israel-based educational tour organizers into the biggest players with the Taglit-Birthright Israel market.”

Taglit-Birthright, partly funded by the Israeli government, gives free trips to young North American Jews, to bolster their support for Israel and encourage them to move there.

Eglash was also co-founder of the advocacy group Upstart Activist, which appears to be an earlier incarnation of the work he now does through Upstart Ideas.

According to its website:

Upstart Activist’s speakers have delivered hundreds of lectures, workshops, and seminars on over 50 North American campuses and in communities since 2001. Upstart Activist speakers have been sponsored by Caravan for Democracy, Hillel groups, AIPAC chapters, Hasbara Fellowships, Hadassah groups, synagogues and Jewish Federations.

The speakers in Upstart Activist’s roster include members of the Israeli army, among them representatives of its propaganda wing, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

Ruth Eglash herself has been on speaking gigs sponsored by her husband’s clients or partners although there’s no indication that the appearances were brokered by him.

She is listed as a member of the speakers bureau of the Jewish National Fund.

Last year, she spoke in Milwaukee at an event sponsored by the Milwaukee chapter of Hadassah, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Israel Center of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation – a member of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Several of these sponsors are members of theIsrael Action Network,” a multi-million dollar initiative set up specifically to counter the growing movement for Palestinian rights.

The Jewish Federations of North America, chief sponsor of the Israel Action Network, is also listed as one of Upstart Ideas’ clients.

Washington Post conflict of interest policy

There is no doubt whatsoever that Michael Eglash has been personally committed to promoting the cause of Israel for all of his adult life, and has helped establish and works closely with official entities dedicated to that cause.

There is also no doubt that the commercial interests of Eglash’s marketing firm, and therefore his livelihood, depend on favorable portrayals of Israel and negative portrayals of Palestinian rights advocates, especially for such clients as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism or Taglit-Birthright.

Washington Post’s response

I wrote to Washington Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl to ask two questions:

1. did Ruth Eglash disclose her husband’s professional and business activities; and

2. did the newspaper believe that these activities could at least appear to compromise the newspaper’s integrity?

Jehl did not respond to either question, but sent the following statement by email, copied to the newspaper’s Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth and deputy foreign editor Griffe Witte:

The Post is committed to its stringent policy on avoiding conflict of interest, which cover the entire newspaper, including foreign bureaus and among the contract employees who work for the foreign staff.

Ruth Eglash’s apparent biases

This response is less than satisfactory, especially given the indications from Ruth Eglash’s own work and activities.

On 4 March, soon before joining the Washington Post, Ruth Eglash appeared on a panel titled “Telling Israel’s Story,” alongside Jewish Agency social media director Avi Mayer and Israeli army spokesperson Avital Leibovitch.

The panel was chaired by Aryeh Green, a former advisor to the Israeli government, but the panel included no one known to be critical of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians who could provide a balancing viewpoint.

Criticisms of Zionism are “sick”

Last year Ruth Eglash wrote an outraged Huffington Post column condemning a YouTube video called “Shit Zionists Say” – part of a spate of such spoofs with such titles as “Shit Girls Say,” “Shit Arab Girls Say,” and “Shit Gay Guys Say.”

The lighthearted video featured numerous persons associated with the Palestine solidarity movement, including Rae Abileah, Dalit Baum, Anna Baltzer, Abraham Greenhouse, Jesse Bacon, Sherry Wolf, Max Blumenthal and myself.

Eglash refused to include a link to the video, claiming:

Shit Zionists Say, (does not deserve a link) is a clip made by a group calling itself “Existence is Resistance.” Disturbingly, they have turned a creative and entertaining genre into a very unfunny and failed attempt to make an extreme political point about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Their video does not feature one single Zionist, but a stream of anti-Zionist individuals expounding deep hatred in sick and very unconstructive way [sic].

While the video is highly offensive, it also does nothing to promote the very real and serious need for Israelis to recognize the rights of Palestinian people as human beings and the need for everyone in the region to work towards peace.

Anyone watching the video would see that it is a spoof of arguments and statements that Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists hear from Zionists on a daily basis, although often expressed in violent, Islamophobic and racist terms that were absent from the spoof.

Eglash’s intolerance of even this sort of mild satire of Zionism, and her characterization of people engaged in solidarity work in such sweeping terms — imputing to them “deep hatred” and “sick” language — suggests she is incapable of dispassionate reporting.

Biases in The Washington Post

Biases are also clearly visible in The Washington Post.

In a recent article on Israel’s efforts to impose its curriculum on children in occupied East Jerusalem, Eglash and her colleague William Booth wrote:

Israel has declared Jerusalem its undivided capital. Yet East Jerusalem is sought by the Palestine Liberation Organization as the capital of a future state. There are about 360,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. A large but unknown number consider themselves Palestinian residents of “Occupied East Jerusalem,” others choose the term “permanent residents,” and a small but growing number are seeking Israeli citizenship.

This euphemistic passage fails to point out that eastern Jerusalem is considered occupied territory under international law, and Israel’s annexation is universally considered illegal.

No country in the world, not even the United States, recognizes Israel’s claims to Jerusalem.

Yet Eglash places “Occupied East Jerusalem” in quotation marks, demoting these incontrovertible facts to the mere opinion of an “unknown number” of Palestinians.

It is not Palestinians who deem themselves “permanent residents.” Rather it is the Israeli occupation that treats Palestinian Jerusalemites as if they were immigrants in their own city, often using this as a pretext to withdraw or deny their residency cards, effectively expelling them from their native city.

Such skewed reporting ought to be deeply worrying to anyone who wishes to turn to the Washington Post as a reliable source on the situation in Palestine.

No Second Term: Including all politically appointed positions

In the middle of the 19th century, the State of Mexico experienced a mass upheaval united on a single demand: No Second term renewal to the President. General Porfirio Diaz was elected president, and stayed for 35 years as dictator.

In 1910, Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa led a land revolution and burned the Presidential Chair, along with the dictum “From the Throne to the Grave”.  A new Constitution denied any second term ( after the six-year power tenure): Better, no politically appointed positions in the government should enjoy a second term… The initials to the Presidential stamp reminded the one in power: “No to Renewal!”

The critical problem to overcome is “Conflict of Interest” among political personalities and their private business corporations. No second term clause to politically appointed positions can substantially diminish this normal urge to taking advantage of power for extended period of time.

In Mexico and the developed States, you hear Mr. President, Mr. Minister…In Lebanon, every political figure requires a distinctive honorary title, a title that is inherited after the individual is no longer in power, and sons are referred with…Titles borrowed from the defunct Ottoman Empire.

In this pseudo-State of Lebanon, only the President of the Republic (must be a Maronite Christian) is denied a second term. In the last two decades, two Presidents enjoyed an extension of three more years under the Syria mandate of the Assad dynasty. Prior to the lengthy civil war that started in 1975, two other Presidents tried to extend their terms that resulted in short civil wars and the demoting by mass upheavals of these power-hungry Presidents of Khoury and Chamoun.

Since 1943, the Lebanese got familiar with only four Chairmen of the Parliaments (and they are to be from the Shia Moslem sect): They are voted by the deputies for another 4-year terms ad nauseum until they retire from old age. Our current “Chairman of the Parliament”, “Maaleeh” Nabih Berry has been  a sitting-bull for over 3 decades…

Since 1943, the Lebanese got familiar with about half a dozen Prime Ministers (must be a Sunni Moslem), a musical chair that reflect which regional power he pays allegiance to (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria…), an the US is the maestro behind the regional powers of this boring music…

In Lebanon corruption is the norm and no longer a bad connotation: If the political figure fails to take advantage of this power opportunity he is considered a fool and sick in the mind…

For example, a feudal warlord admitted publicly that he keeps two accounting books: the book reserved for the government should show horrible deficits and the enterprise requiring influx of tax payer money…This same warlord admitted bluntly that every prisoner during the civil war was executed and the cadaver dumped in deep wells, and he is ruling as if nothing is the matter with…

Note: Post inspired from an article by Jorge Samman (Mexico City) to the Lebanese daily Al Nahar


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