[Marxism] The Resnicks corrupt UCLA

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 13 04:45:39 MST 2014


(Bruce Resnick is a trustee of Bard College.)

Chronicle of Higher Education February 3, 2014
For UCLA, Pomegranate Research Is Sweet and Sour

By Ruth Hammond

"Drink to Prostate Health." "The Antioxidant Superpill." "Take Out a 
Life Insurance Supplement." Pomegranates are a superfood, or at least 
that’s what ads told us for years in newspapers and magazines.

Those ads have now vanished. They were banned as part of a lengthy 
battle between the couple behind Pom Wonderful, the company responsible 
for the ads and the federal government. Tangled up in that dispute, in 
more ways than one, is the University of California at Los Angeles.

In an opinion issued last year, the Federal Trade Commission found that 
36 ads and other promotional materials for Pom Wonderful products, many 
of which cited UCLA studies and quoted UCLA experts, were false or 
deceptive. An order now prohibits Lynda and Stewart Resnick, Pom’s 
owners, from making any disease-related claims about Pom or any product 
of their holding company, Roll Global, during the next 20 years unless 
they have substantiated those claims through at least two 
well-controlled, randomized clinical trials. The Resnicks appealed the 
case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 
last August.

The continuing legal battle has highlighted the complications that can 
arise when people have multiple relationships with a university, as the 
Resnicks do with UCLA.

The couple has given generously to various parts of the university. 
They’ve provided money to UCLA scientists to do research. They have 
engaged some of those same researchers to act as advisers. They paid the 
chief of the UCLA Health System more than $120,000 from 2010 to 2012. 
Two of the Resnicks’ expert witnesses at the FTC trial were from UCLA.

Last summer the university created the Resnick Program for Food Law and 
Policy in the university’s School of Law, through a $4-million gift from 
the couple. The program’s founding executive director, Michael T. 
Roberts, worked as special counsel at Roll Law Group, part of Roll 
Global, for five years.

It is not uncommon for industry donors and university researchers to 
have more than one connection. But, says Josephine Johnston, a research 
scholar at the Hastings Center, an independent institution that studies 
bioethics, she cannot recall hearing of a relationship as multilayered 
as the one between the Resnicks and UCLA. Such relationships "could 
actually create some kind of bias or impaired judgment" in researchers, 
she says, but even if they don’t, "they raise this question about how 
independent and trustworthy the institution is."

Dale T. Tate, a spokeswoman for UCLA Health Sciences, said in an e-mail 
that the university has comprehensive policies regarding conflicts of 
interest, fund raising, and relationships with industry, and reviews 
those policies regularly. Senior managers have a "duty of loyalty" and 
"primary fiduciary responsibility" to the university, she said, and must 
obtain preapproval for all outside professional activities. "We 
understand our obligation to maintain the public's trust."

A Giving Couple

Forbes magazine estimated the Resnicks’ net worth at $3.5-billion last 
year. Besides owning companies like Teleflora and Fiji Water, they hold 
vast amounts of farmland in California, on which they grow tree crops 
like pistachios, citrus fruits, and pomegranates.

The Resnicks are known for their philanthropy, and UCLA has been a 
principal beneficiary. The couple has donated more than $5.2-million to 
the law school and $15-million for the construction of the Ronald Reagan 
UCLA Medical Center. The university’s Stewart and Lynda Resnick 
Neuropsychiatric Hospital is named for them.

The Resnicks were not available to be interviewed for this article, said 
Rob Six, a spokesman for Roll Global who answered questions by e-mail.

In the mid-1990s, the Resnicks began financing experiments to discover 
the health benefits of pomegranates, a scientific research program whose 
scope, Mr. Six says, is "unmatched in the food and beverage industry."

By 2012, the Resnicks said in a legal brief, they had invested more than 
$35-million in pomegranate-related research and had 70 studies published 
in peer-reviewed journals. They relied mainly on the results of a 
handful of those studies to support their assertions about Pom’s 
benefits for people with heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile 
dysfunction.

The FTC faulted studies on Pom products conducted at UCLA and other 
institutions for, among other things, lacking a placebo control group, 
not having statistically significant results, or not measuring a 
meaningful outcome for a disease.

A 2004 ad for Pom said the company was working with top scientists, 
"including a Nobel laureate," on research with "heartening results." The 
laureate, Louis J. Ignarro, was a professor of pharmacology at UCLA from 
1985 until his retirement last June.

Like a number of the scientists who did research for the Resnicks at the 
university, Mr. Ignarro played another role with Pom or a sister company.

In research papers on antioxidants in pomegranate products published in 
2005 and 2006, he disclosed that he was a consultant for Pom Wonderful. 
That work, he said via e-mail, was unpaid.

Another UCLA scientist who has played more than one role with the 
Resnicks’ companies is David Heber, an emeritus professor of medicine 
and public health, and founding director of the UCLA Center for Human 
Nutrition. He is on the Pistachio Health Scientific Advisory Board for 
Paramount Farms, a Roll Global company. He said in an email message that 
he is paid an annual honorarium of $2,500 for that role.

Dr. Heber also participated in studies on Pom products and pistachios, 
was quoted in promotional materials for Pom, and served as one of the 
Resnicks’ expert witnesses.

No one at UCLA Health Sciences agreed to be interviewed for this 
article, although a few researchers and Ms. Tate responded to questions 
by email.

Complex Relationships

A student group, United Students Against Sweatshops, has criticized 
scientists like Dr. Heber on its website for their ties with Pom. It has 
also focused on the link between the Resnicks and David T. Feinberg, 
president of the UCLA Health System and chief executive of the UCLA 
Hospital System.

Last May in Maryland, several students from the organization confronted 
Dr. Feinberg as he stood on stage to give a speech at the national 
conference of the Society of Hospital Medicine. One of them read a 
letter objecting to his and UCLA’s financial relationship with Pom.

In state disclosure forms, Dr. Feinberg, a psychiatrist, indicated that 
he received between $10,001 and $100,000 from the Stewart & Lynda 
Resnick Revocable Trust in 2010 and again in 2012, and more than 
$100,000 in 2011, for his role as a "consultant/adviser."

Dr. Feinberg did not initially answer a question from The Chronicle 
about the nature of his work for the trust, but Mr. Six said via e-mail 
that, while Dr. Feinberg attended a few meetings on Pom's research 
program, his primary consulting role "is to provide strategic advice" on 
Aspect Imaging, a division of Roll Global that designs and manufactures 
compact MRI systems.

Ms. Tate confirmed that Dr. Feinberg had been involved in at least one 
discussion about possible medical uses for the product, and perhaps 
other discussions.

Dr. Feinberg said in an email that he takes "great care" to comply with 
all university rules that permit faculty members to be involved in 
outside professional activities and "would never engage in any 
activities that would affect or influence my responsibility to our 
physicians, nurses, staff, and, most of all, our patients."

A scholar who studies medical conflicts of interest, Eric G. Campbell, 
says that when a university leader has such a relationship, ethicists 
would consider it an institutional conflict of interest. Mr. Campbell 
says that matters in this example because doctors recruit patients for 
studies from the health and hospital systems Dr. Feinberg oversees.

"When an institution like UCLA has all these relationships, I would be 
very skeptical about research coming out of UCLA on that company’s 
products," says Mr. Campbell, a professor of medicine at Massachusetts 
General Hospital and Harvard University. "And that’s why I would suggest 
those research projects be overseen by an independent third party."

Though patients in the UCLA systems Dr. Feinberg oversees are eligible 
to be recruited for studies, Ms. Tate says, the recruitment is overseen 
by UCLA institutional review boards.

Power in a Name

Pom's ads said its products were backed by more than $30-million in 
medical research at leading universities. Ms. Tate said the university’s 
financial records indicate that the Resnicks and their related 
foundations provided about $2.5-million for research by the university’s 
medical school during the past decade.

Whether Pom ever had permission to cite the university’s studies in its 
marketing campaign over several years is unclear. Mr. Six says it did. 
Ms. Tate wrote in an email that the university was unable to find any 
record that it had granted Pom permission to use UCLA’s name and studies 
in its advertising. She said later that while the institution's policies 
prohibit the use of UCLA's name in marketing in a manner "that implies 
endorsement of a product," identifying the location or the researcher’s 
affiliation is not prohibited. The university does "not use a formulaic 
approach" to such issues and would review each case, she said.

In briefs filed in the FTC case, the Resnicks knocked the FTC lawyers’ 
"humorless interpretation" of their ads, which feature hyperbolic titles 
like "Cheat Death," and said they had promoted Pom products as food, not 
medicine. The Resnicks also stood up for the rigors of the science, 
saying that "notwithstanding the enthusiasm" of the researchers, the 
couple had third parties "independently verify the results" to ensure 
accuracy.

Mr. Six said the FTC was using Pom as a test case to hold food companies 
to pharmaceutical-research standards. If the government prevails, he 
wrote, "it will stifle health research across the entire industry" and 
deny consumers access to "emerging science on the potential health 
benefits of fruits and vegetables."

A lawyer who represents many food-industry clients says he expects the 
opposite to happen: Clinical trials on food and food supplements will 
multiply, predicts James R. Prochnow, a partner in the Denver office of 
Greenberg Traurig LLP, as companies seek the evidence they need "to 
support existing health-related claims and to develop a sound scientific 
basis for new health-related claims."

The Resnicks argue in their appeal that the types of clinical trials the 
FTC is demanding are too expensive, but it continues to finance research 
on human subjects, at UCLA and elsewhere.

One of the lessons from the FTC case, says Mr. Prochnow, is that when 
scientists do their clinical trials for food and food supplements, 
"they’d better be really good."





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