Charles Schulz under scrutiny for Seroquel study suicide

Is U of M department of psychiatry chair in the pocket of AstraZeneca?

"Right now, what I want to see is that no other family has to go through what I went through, and has to lose a child totally unnecessarily," Weiss told the legislators.

She had contacted Rep. Karla Bigham, who had in turn authored a bill that would make it illegal for a patient under a stay of commitment to be enrolled in a clinical study.

"I thought this was just wrong," Bigham says. "If somebody would have listened to her, and if these safe measures were there, it might not have happened."

Seven years after her son Dan Markingson's suicide, Mary Weiss still blames the University of Minnesota's psychiatry department
courtesy of Mary Weiss
Seven years after her son Dan Markingson's suicide, Mary Weiss still blames the University of Minnesota's psychiatry department
Charles Schulz admitted during a 2007 deposition that he'd earned more than $150,000 from drug companies
courtesy of Mill City Video Services
Charles Schulz admitted during a 2007 deposition that he'd earned more than $150,000 from drug companies

Weiss's story made an impression. After she testified, the Minnesota Legislature unanimously approved the bill, and Dan's Law went into effect in August 2009.

But that didn't mean that Weiss had finished her quest. She and family friend Mike Howard had continued investigating Schulz and the U of M psychiatry department in an effort to expose their role in the tragedy.

The deeper Weiss and Howard looked, the more the evidence they discovered about Schulz's relationship with Big Pharma. From 2005 to 2010, he had received at least $522,000 from pharmaceutical companies for research, consulting fees, and other compensation, according to public disclosure reports. He'd been paid more than $86,000 by AstraZeneca alone.

Yet for all the boxes of carefully annotated studies, Weiss didn't have a forum for her case.

Then Howard found the University of Minnesota's code of conduct.

Weiss may no longer have legal standing, but she could still file a grievance with Schulz's employer.

The complaint accuses Schulz of allowing drug companies to use his name on studies he didn't write or research, hiding research results that didn't come out favorably to drug company interests, and violating the U of M's ethics policies by not disclosing his financial relationships to patients.

For his part, Schulz says he's done nothing wrong, and maintains that he hasn't violated any U of M policies. The FDA, state Attorney General's Office, and the U of M's Internal Review Board all found no link between Markingson's suicide and the CAFE study. Schulz also points out that he started looking into quetiapine before it was even branded as Seroquel by AstraZeneca.

"I haven't been particularly focused on quetiapine, in my opinion, but on the best ways to help schizophrenic people," Schulz wrote in an email.

A college spokesman confirmed the probe is "pending," but wouldn't give any further details. A decision is expected in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, the outrage has only grown. Eight U of M bioethicists wrote a letter to the Regents asking that an independent board look into the Markingson case. Other faculty members and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly have formally joined the push for an outside investigation.

"Schulz should be fired," Weiss says. "And if he's not, I will certainly, until the end of my life, make his life miserable."

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