Foundation lived by big pharma, now dies by big pharma

Kris Hundley of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Ischemia Research and Education Foundation, which maintained a massive patient care database intended to prevent heart attacks and strokes during and after surgery, is teetering on the brink of financial collapse. While his foundation relied on drug company grants for much of its funding, “monumentally stubborn and notoriously prickly” founder and leader Dr. Dennis Mangano insisted on IREF’s right to publish any and all of its findings, a move he said maintained its independence.

Despite its ties to pharmaceutical companies, Mangano’s foundation made some impressive discoveries, Hundley lists a few highlights:

He found that taking low-cost aspirin after bypass surgery reduces the risk of heart attack. He sounded the alarm about the deadly risks of using Bayer’s drug Trasylol to control bleeding during bypass surgery — nearly two years before the FDA suspended marketing of the drug.

And he warned that Pfizer’s painkiller, Bextra, raised the risk of heart attack and stroke in bypass patients. Bextra was pulled from the market in 2005.

The relationship between pharmaceutical companies and IREF seems to have always been an uneasy one. IREF’s recent troubles began when a rogue employee shared data with Pfizer for which the drug giant would otherwise have had to pay $15 million to $20 million. Mangano refused to settle with the company, instead taking it to court and winning damages totaling almost $60 million.

Now, a judge’s ruling has given Pfizer a second chance and Mangano says he can’t afford to match Pfizer’s resources in the courtroom a second time. He says his suit against Pfizer has made him a “persona non grata” in the pharmaceutical industry and thus cut off what used to be the foundation’s primary source of funding. IREF has gone from 80 employees to just three, and is bleeding money at an unsustainable rate.

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