For nearly two decades, Dr. Neal Hermanowicz has led the movement disorders program at the University of California’s Irvine campus, where he earns more than $380,000 a year in salary and bonuses. The widely respected expert on Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases adds to his income by consulting for drug companies.
In recent years, internal audits at the university’s Irvine and San Francisco campuses have both found that, of a sample of health science faculty, about one-quarter weren’t disclosing all of their outside income. ProPublica’s investigation and the audits show that campus administrators fail to monitor or enforce the rules adequately, and that they rarely penalize violators — a testament, critics say, both to the power of tenured faculty and the university’s desire to accommodate pharmaceutical companies that fund academic research. The underreporting at the UC campuses contrasts with the increase in researchers’ disclosures of potential conflicts in academic journals.
After Nuplazid hit the market, reports of deaths associated with the drug surged. “It’s a very high number” of deaths, said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research. While it’s difficult to determine why there are so many fatalities, she said, the drug’s benefit isn’t worth the risk. In hundreds of cases, patients’ hallucinations, which are supposed to subside with the drug, were instead aggravated.
Some faculty members do take pains to comply with the university’s policy on outside income. Dr. Anjay Rastogi, a professor and clinical chief of nephrology at UCLA medical school, meticulously tracks all payments he receives from industry in a centralized spreadsheet — and remits the required portion, which he said funds academic enrichment, teaching or research.
“We need to disclose everything, I disclose more rather than less,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s fair that we help the university, and they help us as well.”
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