The US Senate Finance Committee charges that Stanford University failed to properly monitor alleged conflicts of interest involvingAlan Schatzberg, who chairs the psychiatry department at Stanford University and who owns about $6 million in stock in Corcept Therapeutics, which participates in a National Institutes of Health study he oversees.
This is the latest such case involving high-profile academics, who receive funding from both the NIH and industry, to be investigated by Chuck Grassley, the ranking committee Republican, for possible violations of federal regulations. At issue are whether universities are adequately policing disclosures in an effort to maintain scientific integrity and objectivity.
Earlier this month, he targeted three Harvard University psychiatrists, including Joe Biederman, for failing to report income since 2000 from various drugmakers. And Grassley also singled out Melissa DelBello at the University of Cincinnati.
In the latest instance, Schatzberg is the lead investigator on an NIH-funded study at Stanford that is testing the abortion drug mifepristone for treating depression. In the past, The San Jose Mercury News writes that Schatzberg insisted he is not directly involved in recruiting or testing patents, and discloses his financial interest in paper and talks.
However, in remarks and a letter to Stanford published on 23 June in the Congressional Record, Grassley noted that Stanford requires that Schatzberg disclose stock valued at more than $100,000. Yet Stanford didn't require him to report profit of $109,000 by selling some Corcept shares in 2005, inform the school that his remaining 2.7 million shares are now worth about $5.8 million.
"Obviously, $6 million is a dramatically higher number than $100,000 and I am concerned that Stanford may not have been able to adequately monitor the degree of Dr. Schatzberg's conflicts of interest with its current disclosure policies, and submit to you that these policies should be re-examined," Grassley writes in a letter to Stanford president John Hennessy.
There were other examples of incomlete disclosure cited by Grassley, including in 2002, when Schatzberg didn't report any income from Johnson & Johnson, but the drugmaker reported to Senate investigators that Schatzberg was paid $22,000 that year. And in 2004, Schatzberg reported receiving between $10,000 to $50,000 from Lilly, while the drugamker reported that Schatzberg was paid more than $52,000 that year.
To find Grassley's remark in the Congressional Record, look here and then type 'Schatzberg' in the search box, and then click on 'Payments to Physicians." To see Stanford's reply, in which the university says Schatzberg did make proper disclosure about the Corcept stock and other payments, please look here.