Texas Researcher Failed to Disclose Money From Drug Companies, U.S. Senator Says

September 11, 2008

A researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch, in Galveston, failed to fully disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars she received from pharmaceutical companies while conducting research on products made by some of the same companies, according to an investigation by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a Republican of Iowa.

The alleged actions by Karen D. Wagner, a professor of psychiatry, violate university and federal policy, according to a letter that Mr. Grassley sent to the chancellor of the University of Texas system. Mr. Grassley entered the letter and other material related to his investigation into the Congressional Record this week.

From 2000 to 2008, Dr. Wagner served as principal investigator in a study of depression financed by the National Institutes of Health, even as she received more than $160,000 from GlaxoSmithKline, maker of an antidepressant drug, Paxil, according to Mr. Grassley. Dr. Wagner reported that she received only $600 from the company, said Mr. Grassley in his letter.

The senator has been investigating financial conflicts of some 30 researchers at 20 universities. He has reported finding conflicts at Harvard, at the University of Cincinnati, and most recently at Stanford. That report resulted in a senior researcher’s stepping down from an NIH-financed grant to Stanford.

In an interview with The Chronicle in July, Mr. Grassley said he was trying to use his oversight authority over the NIH to pressure universities to better police the conduct of their researchers.

The Wall Street Journal reported today on the investigation into Dr. Wagner. —Richard Monastersky