Health Care Renewal is in Dr. Topol’s corner. “The plight of whistle blowers is becoming increasingly dire. If Eric Topol can be fired for critical comments about a drug, who will be able to say anything that displeases the powers that be in health care?

Medicine cannot function if physicians cannot speak their minds. Medical research cannot function if scientists cannot freely express their opinions.”

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  • Anonymous

    Hey Kevin Looks like your hero physician Dr. Topol was into the big bucks game:

    LatelineNews 2004-12-01] NEW YORK – A prominent cardiologist who became a chief critic of Merck & Co.’s arthritis drug Vioxx several years before it was withdrawn has been an advisor to a hedge fund that shorted Merck’s stock, according to the latest edition of Fortune magazine.

    Fortune said Dr. Eric Topol, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, began serving on the scientific advisory board of the $176 million Biomedical Value hedge fund long before Merck withdrew Vioxx in September. It said the fund is run by Great Point Partners of Greenwich, Connecticut.

    Great Point Partners said it could not immediately comment on the report.

    The magazine said marketing material produced by the fund in April 2004 said advisors such as Topol were expected to “provide ‘heads up’ in adance of major medical meetings to ‘get the jump’ on trading/investment strategies.”

    Fortune said an October 2004 presentation by the fund said its board of advisors were “active participants in the fund” and a source of investment ideas.

    The article said the fund had performed strongly, in part by shorting Merck, and in a September 2004 performance summary had praised Topol for highlighting the dangers of Vioxx since 2002.

    Topol said in a statement that the Fortune article had used “innuendos and speculations” to challenge his credibility and that he had no knowlege of any investment by the fund in Merck and never discussed Vioxx with the fund.

    Topol, whose hospital is considered by many to be the best cardiology center in the United States, said the fund paid him $12,000 a year as a retainer but that he did not invest in it.

    Moreover, Topol said he had never seen the marketing material referred to by Fortune and that he had severed his relationship with Great Point to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest.

    Fortune also questioned Topol’s past role as chairman of the advisory board of Canadian drugmaker Forbes Medi-Tech , which is developing a cholesterol drug.

    It said Topol received one million stock options from the company after being given the position in January. The same day, the article said the company announced it had raised $10.75 million from a group of investors, including Great Point Partners, and touted the financing and Topol’s appointment as a strong endorsement of its experimental drugs.

    Fortune said Topol left the Canadian company’s board in November, after the drug performed poorly in a clinical trial, and forefeited all his options.

  • Anonymous

    $12,000 a year is big bucks?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it was kind of hard to believe that he became famous from billing medicare for his 30+ patients a day.

  • Anonymous

    Topol was a critic of Vioxx and Merck back in 2001 and 2002! The fact that this hedge fund was successful by shorting Merck is a result of Merck’s decision to withdraw Vioxx- which is completely unrelated to anything Topol said (and definitely not something that he could’ve predicted)… In fact, if Merck had been listening to Topol, they would’ve pulled the drug a lot earlier. The fortune article is a joke and it reeks of corrupt journalism- ever consider that Fortune is tied to Merck!

  • Anonymous

    The fact is that over 700,000 physicians and researchers have connections to business and therefore potential CoI’s. Fortune’s targeting of Topol essentially taught Topol a lesson— perception of a CoI is almost as damaging as a CoI itself. Since then he has divested completely. The CoI that Fortune was trying to get at was that Topol was attacking Merck for his financial advantage at the hedge fund. If he was simply advising them not to invest in the drug because he knew it had risks, then he would be fulfilling his role as advisor and is not necessarily a CoI. However, Topol has denied even this. Multiple subsequent investigations repeatedly showed the cardiovascular risk of the drug, and Merck’s own studies had to be discontinued and the drug recalled due to the scientific evidence, so it seems certain that he attacked the drug because of his scientific suspicions rather than any kind of effort to make good on any prediction that the hedge fund might have made (independently of him). As an astute reader points out above, they would have probably pulled stock earlier if he HAD talked about the drug.