More on Topol


Category : General, Medical Rants

Dr. Eric Topol is a world famous cardiologist. He is a wonderful thinker. He is outspoken. He still retains his chairmanship.

A reader sends in this commentary:

I live in NE Ohiio and I can tell you: The Cleveland Clinic is big business and Dr. Topol was not well liked by many factions. He was very good at rocking the boat as long as he could grand stand and be out front on supposed problems. He got rid of the evil McDonald’s and their bad food. The only problem was the house staff could not afford the nice salads, nor could the food service keep up demand, thus leaving people with no place to eat in their allotted breaks.

Make no mistake, this is about egos, money, and sweetheart deals.

In no way do I believe that his removal will intimidate him. Nor do I believe it will intimidate many academicians. This situation is much more complex than a whistleblower case. This situation is probably a clash of huge egos.

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Comments (6)

It was announce in The Akron Beacon Journal that Pfizer is paying the cost of a cox-2 v OTC pain relief study to be done by the Cleveland Clinic. Financial details were not disclosed.

The issue about getting rid of evil McD’s and not being able to afford meals…..I have a good idea! Instead of BUYING your expensive lunches and snacks where you work…..try packing a lunch. Give me a break!

Topol is the lesser of the two egos. At least he has patient safety higher on his list.

I presume you all know that Topol was, until recently, a paid adviser to a hedge fund which sold short shares of Merck and other pharma. (This was reported in the NY Times.) He has also received grant and been a paid consultant for a number of pharmaceutical companies.
This is not to suggest that his motives were other than pure as snow in taking Merck to task for Vioxx. It does suggest that he is no stranger to financial conflicts of interest.
I only hope he has not been compensated by plaintiff’s attournies. That is a sin punishable by more than simply losing an academic title or two.

Having followed quite a few whistle-blower cases, I’ve noticed that there is a common set of responses used to discredit whistle-blowers. These include:

1. Labelling the whistle-blower a trouble-maker, boat-rocker, malcontent, disgruntled worker, etc. I would point out that the “go along to get along” types do not become whistle-blowers. Whistle-blowers tend to be on the persnickety side. That being said, being persnickety is hardly a crime.
2. Attributing it all to politics. The whistle-blower is labelled a right- or left-winger, his or her opponents the opposite, and the whole thing is dismissed as a local political dispute. Again, this begs the seriousness of the whistle-blower’s charges, and the punishment he or she receives for making them.
3. The cynical, “they are all in it for the money” response suggests that the whistle-blower was somehow guilty of offenses similar to those which he or she exposed. Usually, these offenses are unnamed, not backed up with evidence, or of unclear severity.

That being said, I think I’ve now seen most of them in responses to the Topol case.

Certainly Topol was a boat-rocker. And maybe his decision about MacDonalds was ill-conceived. But the seriousness of these issues seem outweighed by what he blew the whistle about (both regarding Merck, and the FMP and AtriCure issues.) Do the top academic officers of medical schools (i.e., for most medical schools, their Deans) usually get fired for such things? If not, why was Topol then fired?

Maybe Topol is a left-winger, to some extent, and his opponents are on the right. So what?

Topol may have not been free of conflicts of interest. I believe he publicly renounced his involvement with the hedge fund (but could be wrong on that one.) But were his conflicts as serious as those involving FMP and AtriCure, for which no one was fired?

My esteemed friend who is the proprietor of Medical Rants, and a few of those writing comments, have found some excuses for Topol’s firing, but in my humble opinion, they seem pretty thin.

For clarification: Topol didn’t close McDonald’s down–Toby Cosgrove did.

It was Cosgrove who led the fight against McDonalds. But McDonalds is still there at the clinic.

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