Second complaint filed in faculty ghostwriting case


The letter to the Office of Research Integrity alleges that Penn ignored evidence in dismissing charges




Psychiatry professor Jay Amsterdam filed a second complaint on June 26 against two colleagues based on ghostwriting charges that Penn had dismissed in March.

The letter, addressed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity, requests the ORI to obtain the ghostwriting documents provided by a medical publishing group.

Amsterdam had filed a charge of research misconduct against Psychiatry professors Laszlo Guylai and Dwight Evans last July for attaching their names to a 2001 scholarly paper that explored the effects of Paxil, an antidepressant drug. Amsterdam and his lawyer, Bijan Esfandiari, claimed the paper was ghostwritten by a company named Scientific Therapuetics Information.

On March 1, the Perelman School of Medicine’s faculty inquiry committee stated there was “no merit to the allegations of research misconduct” and rejected the documents that STI offered to show the University.

“I don’t know how they kept a straight face during the investigation without the primary document,” said Bijan Esfandiari, Amsterdam’s lawyer. “Unfortunately, instead of curtailing future acts of scientific misconduct, the University of Pennsylvania, through its report, has apparently seen it fit to provide violators with safe harbor.”

Lincoln Memorial University neuroanatomy professor Jonathan Leo is appalled at the University’s dismissal of the charges. “Was there a deserving author who should’ve been listed on the byline? To us, that’s a yes or no question,” he said. “I don’t really think the committee at UPenn looked at it that way.”

Leo added that “the reader should know who wrote it. If you can’t trust the byline, how can you trust the rest of the paper?”

The Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog organization, had accused Evans in December 2010 for taking credit for a 2003 editorial that was ghostwritten by an employee from the company Scientific Therapeutics Information. Penn dismissed the accusation.

POGO also sent a letter to President Barack Obama last July, asking him to remove Gutmann from the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, where she has served as chair since November 2009.

“If the president of this university can’t handle biomedical issues on her own campus, how is she supposed to serve as chair of the bioethics council of the United States of America?” said Paul Thacker, a former investigator at POGO. “I’m extremely disappointed with Dr. Gutmann and the way she has sidestepped this whole issue.”

Esfandiara added that “we’re not trying to get anyone’s head chopped off. We’re simply getting people to acknowledge they did something wrong, get reprimanded, then move on.”

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