Conflict probe turns to Stanford

The irascible conflict of interest hunter, linkurl:Senator Charles Grassley;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54561/ (R-IA), has set his sights on a Stanford University psychiatrist who's running a federally funded clinical trial on a drug made by the same company in which he owns millions of dollars in stock. The psychiatrist is linkurl:Alan Schatzberg,;http://med.stanford.edu/profiles/Alan_Schatzberg and he is the chair of the psychiatry department at Stanford's School of Medicine. Sc

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob started with The Scientist as a staff writer in 2007. Before joining the team, he worked as a reporter at Audubon and earned a master’s degree in science journalism...

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Jun 24, 2008
The irascible conflict of interest hunter, linkurl:Senator Charles Grassley;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54561/ (R-IA), has set his sights on a Stanford University psychiatrist who's running a federally funded clinical trial on a drug made by the same company in which he owns millions of dollars in stock. The psychiatrist is linkurl:Alan Schatzberg,;http://med.stanford.edu/profiles/Alan_Schatzberg and he is the chair of the psychiatry department at Stanford's School of Medicine. Schatzberg owns $6 million of stock in linkurl:Corcept Therapeutics,;http://www.corcept.com/ according to stories in linkurl:__Science__;http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/624/1 and in the linkurl:__San Jose Mercury News__.;http://www.mercurynews.com/lifeandstyleheadlines/ci_9689122?nclick_check=1 The company produces mifepristone, an abortion drug (also known as linkurl:RU-486);http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/10905/ that is being tested as a depression treatment. Schatzberg is the lead investigator on an NIH-funded study of mifepristone taking place at Stanford, though he is not directly involved in recruiting study subjects or testing patients. Schatzberg and Stanford have attracted Grassley's withering gaze because the Senator, who is the ranking member of the Senate's Committee...
s on a Stanford University psychiatrist who's running a federally funded clinical trial on a drug made by the same company in which he owns millions of dollars in stock. The psychiatrist is linkurl:Alan Schatzberg,;http://med.stanford.edu/profiles/Alan_Schatzberg and he is the chair of the psychiatry department at Stanford's School of Medicine. Schatzberg owns $6 million of stock in linkurl:Corcept Therapeutics,;http://www.corcept.com/ according to stories in linkurl:__Science__;http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/624/1 and in the linkurl:__San Jose Mercury News__.;http://www.mercurynews.com/lifeandstyleheadlines/ci_9689122?nclick_check=1 The company produces mifepristone, an abortion drug (also known as linkurl:RU-486);http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/10905/ that is being tested as a depression treatment. Schatzberg is the lead investigator on an NIH-funded study of mifepristone taking place at Stanford, though he is not directly involved in recruiting study subjects or testing patients. Schatzberg and Stanford have attracted Grassley's withering gaze because the Senator, who is the ranking member of the Senate's Committee on Finance, says that the university did not require the researcher to disclose the fact that he owned such a sizable chunk of Corcept Therapeutics stock. Stanford's conflict policies do require investigators to disclose financial conflicts valuing more than $100,000, but for some reason Schatzberg's holdings slipped through the university policy's cracks. "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," Grassley wrote in a June 23 linkurl:letter;http://frwebgate1.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/PDFgate.cgi?WAISdocID=425632504759+0+1+0&WAISaction=retrieve published in the __Congressional Record__. In the letter, Grassley also outlines instances where Schatzberg received pharmaceutical company payments that he failed to report to Stanford, including an unreported $22,000 Schatzberg got from Johnson and Johnson in 2002. Grassley provides a list of such discrepancies in his letter to Stanford and writes: "The lack of consistency between what Dr. Schatzberg reported to Stanford and what several drug companies reported to me seems to follow a pattern of behavior. More specifically, I have uncovered inconsistent reporting patterns at the University of Cincinnati, and at Harvard University and Mass General Hospital," referring to conflicts among researchers at other institutions Grassley has investigated. A 2006 linkurl:story;http://daily.stanford.edu/article/2006/7/13/potentialConflictsForTrustees in __The Stanford Daily__ stated that Schatzberg co-founded Corcept Therapeutics, and that the University granted the company an exclusive license to develop his patented technologies into FDA-approved treatments. Allegations of conflict between Schatzberg's scientific and financial goals were first raised, according to __The Stanford Daily__ story, when two research psychiatrists at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology publicly stated that RU-486's effectiveness in treating depression was questionable and said that Schatzberg's science was compromised by his ties to Corcept Therapeutics.

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?