Researcher settles with drugs firm

November 22, 2002

Canadian university researcher Nancy Olivieri agreed last week to settle all disputes with a drugs company, university and teaching hospital with which she had been battling for six years.

James L. Turk, leader of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said that the settlement was the most important victory for academic freedom in the association's 50-year history.

The settlement was reached between Dr Olivieri, the University of Toronto, its faculty association, Caut, Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and four of her supporters whose reputations had been under fire.

Dr Olivieri said in a press release: "We've reached a deal that sends a very clear message that our academic freedom and scientific integrity cannot be compromised."

The dispute began in 1996 when Dr Olivieri proposed changes to a consent form after results of clinical drugs trials showed a build-up of iron in the blood of young thalassaemia patients. The Canadian pharmaceuticals company Apotex refuted her findings, closed the trials and threatened her with a lawsuit if she went public.

Dr Turk said universities' policies still allowed university-based research to be subject to confidentiality provisions. But they now knew how far associations such as his would go "to fight any attempts to muzzle researchers".

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