Amid calls for ouster over drug test handling, Kaler defends himself, U of M

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Growing criticism of the University of Minnesota's handling of psychiatric drug tests has the U's president on the defensive.

A New York Times article Friday reviewed the 2004 case of a psychiatric patient who killed himself while taking part in a drug trial at the U of M. That prompted President Eric Kaler to issue a response defending the university's reputation while also promising to lead changes.

The Times spoke with a U of M bioethicist who filed a complaint with the Food and Drug Administration over the university's handling of the drug study during which Dan Markingson took his life.

This year a panel of outside experts and Minnesota's legislative auditor have each issued reports criticizing the U of M for not doing enough to protect the people who take part in clinical drug tests.

Former Governor Arne Carlson has recently been among the strongest critics of Kaler's handling of the situation.

Carlson told KSTP Friday that the board of regents should fire Kaler because of the damage to the university's reputation – reiterating the same criticisms he'd leveled on MPR News and in an opinion piece for the Star Tribune.

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In his response to the Times article, Kaler – who came to Minnesota in 2011 – notes that the U of M disputes some of the claims made about its studies, but says the university can do better and he is committed to leading the change.

Last month the university suspended enrollment in all of its psychiatric drug studies while their practices are scrutinized by a review board.

Last week the chairman of the psychiatry department stepped down after 16 years in role.

Kaler says a committee's report on how to implement the changes recommended by the legislative auditor and the outside panel is due by May 15.

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