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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Karen Wagner, child pharmacology researcher investigated

Source: Trail Blazers By Emily Ramshaw/Reporter


An influential U.S. senator has reported a University of Texas researcher's financial relationship with a drug company to the top investigator at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to the University of Texas System in September raising concerns that child pharmacology researcher Karen Wagner had not properly disclosed her financial connections with drug companies. He reported her in a letter to the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General on Tuesday, one addressed to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

The university system has not disciplined Wagner, who could not be reached for comment. But Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Barry Bergdorf said she has been under investigation for the last two weeks. Wagner will remain at work throughout the investigation, he said, and the UT Board of Regents has been notified.

"We've taken all reasonable steps and will continue to do so," Bergdorf said. The fact that Grassley made the report to the inspector general "is probably of concern to Dr. Wagner."

Grassley's research into doctor-drug company connections has helped spark a national debate over the influence big pharmaceutical companies wield in medical research. He has filed a federal bill to force drug companies to report gifts, travel and payments to doctors, legislation Texas lawmakers are considering - but appear unlikely to pass -- on a state level.

More details on the allegations against Wagner after the jump...


According to Grassley's research, GlaxoSmithKline paid Wagner, who is the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, more than $160,000 between 2000 and 2005. She only reported $600 to UTMB.

During two of those years, she worked on a major study on the company's drug Paxil - research that has been widely criticized for over-promoting positive findings while downplaying heightened suicidal thoughts and behavior in adolescents.

UTMB didn't require researchers to report outside income until 2002. But since 1995, the National Institutes of Health has required researchers who receive federal grants to keep financial disclosures on file with their universities. Wagner has received such grants, Grassley says, and as such, should've reported her income.

Grassley's letter also includes several research proposals filled out by Wagner during those years where she said she had no financial interest in the drug companies she was working with.

A woman who answered the phone at Wagner's office said she was attending a conference and was not available to talk.

"I ask your continued cooperation in examining conflicts of interest," Grassley wrote. "Institutions across the United States must be able to rely on the representations of its faculty."

Full story, with comments, HERE

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