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Hormones for children, put the doctors on trial », two specialists in trouble

by Gaslini and San Martino Guido Filippi - Genoa 08/05/2014

Genoa – The accusation is very heavy and shameful: money, gifts and bonus trips from the pharmaceutical company Sardoz to a network of paediatricians and endocrinologists from all over Italy to increase the prescriptions - and consequently sales - of growth hormones to children.

The investigation by the Nas carabinieri, coordinated by the public prosecutors of Busto Arsizio and Rimini, lifted the veil and brought to light the suspicious relationships between about sixty doctors and the multinational: 80 people had been registered in the register of suspects: 68 doctors (including 5 from Genoa) who work in 40 public and private hospitals, and 12 scientific informants.

In recent weeks, the first phase of the investigations was completed and the public prosecutor Mirko Monti asked for the indictment and trial of 41 white coats, including two Genoese university students: Roberto Gastaldi who is the head of Gaslini's clinical Auxology, and Mara Boschetti, a researcher at the Endocrinology center of the San Martino Ist. only and exclusively to take care of children. Boschetto, on the other hand, chose not to be questioned.

Also on trial are 12 whistleblowers – executives, sales managers and area managers who are on the payroll or who have worked for Sandoz. The crimes charged to all range, for various reasons, from fraud against the National Health Service, to corruption in comparison.

Now the last word belongs to the judge for preliminary investigations who will have to decide on the indictment and set the date for the first hearing.

Among the suspects were three other specialists who deal with problems related to growth: the director of the San Martino Ist Francesco Minuto, who died a few months ago, and two other doctors from Gaslini: Mohamad Maghnie who coordinates the center for endocrine diseases and Teresa De Toni. The charges against them were dropped, they were acquitted and therefore withdrew from the investigation.

In October two years ago, when the Nas carabinieri raid was triggered throughout Italy, the hospital offices and homes of the Genoese doctors were also searched and the medical records on the admission of about thirty patients in therapy with Omnitrope, a growth hormone marketed by Sandoz, were seized.

The investigation arose from a complaint by the multinational group Novartis which, suspecting it was at the center of a scam, had provided the investigators with a memorandum on gifts: travel, valuable bags, plane tickets for a conference in Japan or the States, and money to inflate the prescriptions of very expensive drugs.

Gastaldi's name had also emerged in a disciplinary dispute "for a contribution of an unspecified amount to pay the expenses of two congresses... as consideration for the inclusion of ten new patients in therapy with Omnitrope".

In the Nas report it also emerges that the doctor would also have received from Sandoz "a leather bag for a value of around 180 euros". The researcher Boschetti (wife of the well-known surgeon Edoardo Berti Riboli who in recent years had denounced some suspicious appointments, "on order" by the Burlando junta), was instead contested for a contribution to the San Martino department that would have been used to finance her recruitment.

"It's not true - the doctor repeated - I took part in a regular competition and Sandoz has only financed some research". Now the word goes to the court.

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Fedaiisf Federazione delle Associazioni Italiane degli Informatori Scientifici del Farmaco e del Parafarmaco