Monday, December 8, 2008

Not Apotex vs. Olivieri Again

As part of my catch-up campaign I have to go back to another bit of news from last week. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) again found it necessary to weigh in on the ongoing dispute between Dr. Nancy Olivieri and the drug firm Apotex:

Almost two years ago I posted on a new book about the Olivieri-Apotex case:

Following that post (which offers a brief review of the Olivieri case, there being a longer description in HOOKED), I took a fair amount of heat from some Canadian colleagues who happen to be supporters of Dr. Olivieri. I don't expect to take any heat this time around, as according to CAUT, the behavior of Apotex is so egregious as to beggar description.

After a drawn-out legal battle in which Apotex accused Dr. Olivieri of badmouthing their drug, deferiprone, for thalassemia major, and Olivieri accused the company of trying to suppress data showing the drug's serious side effects, an agreement was reached in November 2004, in which each side agreed to stop disparaging the other. Apotex has now taken Olivieri back to court claiming that she violated the agreement.

CAUT has pointed out in its recent statement that Apotex has adopted a definition of "disparage" that seriously threatens academic freedom. According to some of the charges filed by Apotex with the court, Dr. Olivieri disparages them when:
  • she appears on a panel or gives a lecture to discuss the ethical issues of the relationship between medical research and the pharmaceutical industry, even if she never mentions Apotex or deferiprone by name
  • anyone else writes about the "Olivieri case" and mentions the charges against Apotex and deferiprone, even if Olivieri had nothing whatever to do with it (I presume according to Apotex, this post is an example of Dr. Olivieri disparaging them, even though she had and has no idea that I am writing this, and she and I have in fact never met or spoken)
I have no independent source besides CAUT to document Apotex's recent bad behavior. But unlike CAUT's earlier report on the Olivieri case, which drew criticism because many of the actors in the drama who disagreed with Olivieri refused to be interviewed by the CAUT investigators while Olivieri supporters all participated, the present statement seems based strictly on legal documents filed with the court. Assuming CAUT's allegations to be generally true, there is no question this time of different points of view among different participants in the case. This would appear to be a baldfaced attempt to muzzle a critic of the pharmaceutical industry.


Anonymous said...

nice post

InformaticsMD said...

Does the term "SLAPP" ring any bells here?

Howard Brody said...

MedInformaticsMD asks if the concept of a SLAPP lawsuit is pertinent to this situation. This colleague no doubt knows that I address SLAPP in HOOKED. The basic idea of a SLAPP is a big firm suing small fry, even though the lawsuit has no real merit, as a way of sending a signal--don't mess with us unless you want to spend your life savings getting legal representation. I must admit that in this case I am not sure how SLAPP applies. Apotex kept threatening Nancy Olivieri with legal action throughout their dispute though in those early years, despite their threats, they never took action in court, as I recall. Apotex clearly intended in those early days to put a chill on the willingness of any scientists to buck the industry sponsor that funded their research. My hesitation to use the term SLAPP for this latest legal salvo is that they have succeeded, long ago, in their chilling objectives. They pretty much stopped Dr. Olivieri's career in its tracks for a number of years and forced her to spend full time defending herself from persecution, both from Apotex and from their University of Toronto friends. The word was out to scientists a long time ago-- mess with a big drug firm and this is the fate you can expect. So I don't see that this latest set of charges against her adds anything new to the mix, to be honest.

Thanks a lot for adding your comment!-- Howard

Anonymous said...

I really like your Blog.

Magento Themes said...

Would just like to arugue on the point which MedInformaticsMD wrote
"Does the term SLAPP ring and bells here?"

Well taking about bell what exactly do you mean.....

Magento Themes

Magento themes said...

that book is interesting Olivieri-Apotex case