Part 1 of a 2 Part Series
On March 19th, 2015 psychiatric drug trials at the University of Minnesota were finally halted over a case that began in May of 2004 when Dan Makingson, participating in a test of a schizophrenia drug, committed suicide.
The Minnesota State Legislative Auditor recently reviewed allegations that Markingson was coerced into the study and remained in the study even when his mother requested he be dis-enrolled as she had grave concerns of the effects of the trial drug on her son.
While claiming there was no “proof that the trial drug caused the suicide”, the findings stated “We are especially troubled by the response of University leaders … they have made misleading statements about previous reviews and been consistently unwilling to discuss or even acknowledge that serious ethical issues and conflicts are involved.”
These findings were strong enough to force University President Eric Kaler to apologize to Markingson’s family and suspend all enrollments in current and upcoming psychiatric drug studies until an independent board reviews them and informs university administrators that they can safely proceed.
Noting that such an internal university review would be of questionable value, the State Legislative Auditor recommended legislation by the state of Minnesota to prevent all psychiatric drug trials until such time as the university adopts stronger patient protections.
Psychiatric Drugs – The Suicide of Dan Markingson
Dan Markingson had become delusional and was admitted to a psychiatric ward at Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis where Dr. Stephen Olson, a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota and director of their schizophrenia program, saw him. On Olson’s recommendation a county court agreed to a civil commitment order forcing Makingson legally to obey whatever his psychiatrist recommended.
Being a paid researcher and speaker for the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, Olson promptly recruited Markingson into a scientifically dubious, AstraZeneca-funded study of antipsychotic drugs — despite the fact that Markingson had been repeatedly judged incompetent to make his own medical decisions.
The AstraZenceca study attempted to compare the effects of 3 anti-psychotic drugs –Zyprexa, Risperdal and their own creation – Seoquel. These drugs are a known trio of killers due to their behavioral side-effects of anger, rage, homicide and suicide.
After 2 weeks at Fairview, Dan was placed in a halfway house.
On May 8, 2004, Markingson’s body was found in a blood-soaked bathroom. Halfway house workers found a suicide noting saying “I left this experience smiling.” Blood tests later showed he was taking Seroquel.
Psychiatry’s Deplorable Ethics Record Revealed
The clinical drug trial which cost Dan Markingson his life was known as the CAFÉ study (an acronym for Comparison of Atypicals in First-Episode Schizophrenia) and was sponsored by AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of Seroquel.
The Café study investigators and the Institutional Review Board (IRB – the university’s research ethics board) both violated widely accepted ethical guidelines. Some of the more shocking violations are:
- Dr. Olson recruited Markingson into the study while also serving as his treating psychiatrist and an adviser to the court on whether Markingson needed inpatient commitment.
- Markingson was coerced into the CAFÉ study by the threat of involuntary commitment.
- University of Minnesota investigators ignored warnings that Markingson was in danger of committing suicide.
- AstraZeneca and a University of Minnesota investigator manipulated research results to promote Seroquel.
- University of Minnesota investigators failed to disclose important financial conflicts of interest to subjects. Dr. Charles Schulz, a co-investigator on the CAFÉ study, received over $570, 000 from the pharmaceutical industry from 2002 to 2008, with $112,000 coming from AstraZeneca. Also, subjects were not informed that the Department of Psychiatry was paid $15,648 for each subject who completed the CAFÉ study. The longer a subject stayed in the study, the more the university got paid. In total, the CAFÉ study generated $327,000 for the Univ. Of MN Department of Psychiatry.
Yet, there is much more to learn about this story.
Part 2 of this series will explore earlier psychiatric incidents at the University of Minnesota and how students and faculty managed to make a dent in this criminal structure.