- Over a Cup of Coffee
- Eyedrops that killed and Stanford president resigns
Eyedrops that killed and Stanford president resigns
Four people lost their lives after bacterial contamination in OTC eye drops
In 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came across a highly virulent strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in different parts of the country.
Eight months later the regulatory body linked the infections to contamination in two brands of over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops but not before four people had lost their lives and 18 others lost their vision.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a rod-shaped bacterium is known to be resistant to multiple antibiotics and in some cases, the infection spread so fast that doctors had to remove eyeballs to stop it.
The OTC eye drops weren't fake or illegally imported but approved for sale by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Interestingly, the two brands though unrelated had one thing in common, the manufacturer of the drops - a little-known company in Chennai, India.
While the investigation of the source of the contamination is still ongoing, it brought into the limelight how little regulation is needed to sell OTC eye drops in the US.
Lacking resources to carry out extensive testing, the FDA allows the sale of eye drops without the manufacturer having to demonstrate that the medicine is safe or even works as long as it follows a list of approved ingredients and demonstrates compliance with good manufacturing practices. As Peter Robinson and Priyanka Pulla, write in their Bloomberg piece "Basically, paperwork".
If you would like to know more about how a non-profit organization received FDA approval to sell eye drops that "allow you to see like a mermaid underwater", do read this piece.
Stanford President resigns after investigation
Since we are talking about wrongdoings, there is another report that wasn't spoken about much in the media this week, about the resignation of Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.
Tessier-Lavigne has been accused of "producing manipulated data and sloppy science" and has decided to step down from his position at Stanford after an independent panel found that he had failed on multiple occasions to correct errors in his published research.
Tessier-Lavigne has a stellar career in the field of neuroscience and led thousands of scientists at companies like Regeneron and Genentech, before taking up the role at Stanford in 2016.
The panel found that several of the papers where Tessier-Lavigne was listed as a co-author had manipulated data, although it absolved him of knowing about the misconduct.
However, concerns about such manipulation date back to research published by Tessier-Lavigne even in 2001. Elisabeth Bik, who has researched over 20,000 papers for scientific misconduct, is confident that images in the paper that has over 700 citations have "photoshopped images".
Interestingly, the investigation that led to the formation of the panel was published by Theo Baker in the university's own publication called The Stanford Daily. Now that's parrhesia.
You can read the report published in November 2022 using the link below.
The Stanford President isn't a lone case. Research published by a Nobel laureate and other prominent researchers also issues and often a member of the team is accused of misconduct.
If you have noticed something similar, there is PubPeer, a tool to publicly point out flaws in papers.
If you liked this edition of the newsletter, why not like it and share it with a colleague or a dear friend?
Click here to subscribe.
Until next time,