Anderson, Christopher. "Scandal Scars Minnesota Medical School," Science 262 (17 December

 

Anderson, Christopher. "Scandal Scars Minnesota Medical School," Science 262 (17 December
1993), pp. 1812-1813.

Here is Science's first report on the difficulties at Minnesota and several of those problems are
mentioned: Garfinkel's conviction and sentence, the resignations of the dean and two vice
presidents, the removal of John Najarian as chair of surgery and now the possibility of criminal
proceedings against him, the ALG battles with the FDA, and now the attempt by the university to
strip Najarian of his tenure and fire him, are all here. But it has taken years to get this case to
Science. (The thrust here is quite different say, than the investigative reporting by Joe Rigert and
the others at the Star Tribune). Here the thrust of the article seems to be the disintegration of
good relations between the medical school and the university's administration. Indeed, President
Hasselmo is presented as being after Najarian to cover his own shortcomings. And all these
events are not taken as evidence of anything wrong at the university: it is all a matter of poor
relations between the administration and the medical college.

It is reported here that the FBI, the FDA and the IRS are all investigating the university. There is
the suspicion that the millions taken in by the sale of ALG may have been diverted to more than
the one pocket of Richard Condie, the administrator of the ALG program, who has been fired by
the university and who is now being investigated. John Najarian is, undoubtedly being
considered as an abuser of this income from the sale of ALG. But rather than considering
anything amiss, Science seems to be saying "Well, those blockhead bureaucrats have made ALG
illegal and there are poor patients out there who need the stuff."

ALG is on "clinical hold," placed there by the FDA, which means that the university cannot sell
the drug at all. This after 20 years of sales, all of which were illegal. But rather than seeing this as
evidence of wrongdoing, ALG is described as an effective and relatively inexpensive drug which
has helped patients!

An important question raised here: why did the FDA crack down so hard when it did? After all,
Najarian and the others had been selling the stuff all those years and no one seemed to care.
Then, all of a sudden... Two answers are suggested: first, that rival drug companies wanted to
halt the production of this inexpensive and effective drug and that the FDA was "ill-prepared to
oversee such an arrangement" (of having a university produce a commercial drug). The fact that
the FDA finally cracked down because it is mandated to stop the sale of illegal drugs is not
mentioned.

The investigations will continue for several months and legal action will be taken if wrong-doing
is discovered. Much more important is the "breakdown of trust" (as reported here) between the
administration of the school and the medical college. And the loss of creative energies that are
involved when administration and researchers clash. Indeed, Najarian is described as "a leading
figure at the medical school and, according to the Institute of Scientific Information, the 15th
most productive researcher in the world..." who now spends his time fighting charges against
him, into arguing with the administration. Implication: what a waste!

A great deal of fallout has already resulted: four top transplant faculty members, including
Najarian's heir-apparent, David Sutherland, are considering job offers from other institutions.
Other institutions are engaging in what is here called "vulture behavior" in raiding the distraught
faculty. Again, what a waste!

This whole thing is treated as "regulatory overkill" rather than as evidence of crimes and
misdemeanors. Science does not see this at all as evidence of wrongdoing. It's just FDA overkill.
Interesting.