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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Chronic fatigue syndrome researcher Judy Mikovits arrested

with 51 comments

Judy Mikovits, the embattled chronic fatigue syndrome researcher who was fired from her post at Reno, Nevada’s Whittemore Peterson Institute in September, was arrested yesterday in California.

The Ventura County, California Sheriff’s Department web site lists Mikovits under booking number 1259336, charged with a felony violation of California Penal Code section 1551.1, “Fugitive From Justice.”  This is that section, according to FindLaw:

The arrest of a person may also be lawfully made by any peace officer, without a warrant, upon reasonable information that the accused stands charged in the courts of any other state with a crime punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, or that the person has been convicted of a crime punishable in the state of conviction by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year and thereafter escaped from confinement or violated the terms of his or her bail, probation or parole. When so arrested the accused shall be taken before a magistrate with all practicable speed and complaint shall be made against him or her under oath setting forth the ground for the arrest as in Section 1551.

The arrest seems linked to a lawsuit. On November 14, ScienceInsider reported that the Whittemore had sued Mikovits:

A little more than 1 month after firing Mikovits, the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI) on 4 November filed suit against its former research director. According to WPI, after Mikovits was terminated on 29 September, she wrongfully removed laboratory notebooks and kept other proprietary information on her laptop and in flash drives and in a personal e-mail account. WPI, a nonprofit organization that’s based on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, also won a temporary restraining order that forbids Mikovits from “destroying, deleting, or altering” any of the related files or data.

Mikovits attorney, Lois Hart, said her client cannot speak to the media about the case, but she strongly denies any wrongdoing. In an e-mail to ScienceInsider, Hart stressed that “Dr. Mikovits’ integrity goes to the bone.”

The Ventura arrest lists a hearing on Tuesday, November 22, at 1:30 p.m., which is the same time the Washoe County Courts have a hearing scheduled in Whittemore’s case. The Osler’s Web blog reports that a clerk told them Mikovits was arrested on an “out of county warrant” from Washoe County.

Mikovits is currently housed at Ventura County’s Todd Road Jail in Santa Paula.

We will update as we hear more.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

November 19, 2011 at 7:26 am

Posted in judy mikovits

51 Responses

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  1. This shows that big money and political power talk — and sue people and get them arrested if they don’t capitulate. That’s it.
    There is nothing that WPI and the Whittemores are doing in this situation that helps people with CFS. Nothing. It’s all about their business and raising money, and lots of it. And pushing aside anyone that stands in their way.
    This is really disgusting. No one should support WPI, donate to it, go to it. The Whittemores should just raise disrespect. They brought it on themselves.
    If one reads the Wikipedia entry on the Whittemores, their business practices are questionable. They’re tied to casino gambling. They’re tied to lifting of environmental protections and decreasing workers’ rights.
    I have never trusted them since I first read about their business backgrounds.
    I feel like I’m watching a cops and gangster movie, with them playing the gangsters, and a research scientist caught in the middle.
    They have lost the right to have an institute for CFS. They don’t care about CFS sufferers. They have no principles or morality or integrity, that’s it. All out for themselves, not science, not helping cure CFS, nada.

    kathy d.

    November 19, 2011 at 9:04 am

    • Thank you for speaking up. My thoughts as well. Even worse is how the Whittemores are trying to frighten ppl from speaking their mind. Threaths of legal action if you dare to critisize or speak badly of them or the institute. Horrible! I do hope justice will win in this case, and not corruption with its powerful financial brotherhood…

      Elisabeth

      November 19, 2011 at 10:47 am

      • True Elizabeth, they are trying to use intimidation to silence their detractors.
        Actions speak louder than words. Annette Whittemore’s glossy veneer has now gone and we see the real woman, vindictive, cunning, spiteful and oh so money loving. Fighting like a cat with no moral scruples.
        Your day behind bars may not be too far away Annette and there will be nobody fighting for you, you can be sure of that. Your fat cat friends will vanish, as fat cat friends always do.

        MeMyselfAndME

        November 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

  2. Well, it’s Nevada, what do you expect…

    Joseph Lakatos

    November 19, 2011 at 9:25 am

  3. What relevance does this have to this site?

    Lui

    November 19, 2011 at 10:16 am

    • Thanks for the question. I think if you look at our previous coverage of this case, particularly of a paper co-authored by Dr. Mikovits that has now been partially retracted, its relevance will be clear.

      http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/category/judy-mikovits/

      http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/why-did-science-partially-retract-the-xmrv-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-paper/

      ivanoransky

      November 19, 2011 at 11:19 am

    • Because it’s relevant to the partial retraction and followup studies reported in the ScienceInsider article linked above, and to an earlier post on this site.

      Peter Harris

      November 19, 2011 at 11:23 am

    • Lui, the relevance can be ascertained by reading the link “fired from her post” which is included in the first sentence of this entry. There was a partial retraction and the researcher was fired over a dispute about whether scientific misconduct has occurred. She is under suspicion. If I understand correctly, she claims that others made an unintentional error — for which she does not blame them — and that she is working to arrive at the answer without criticizing other researchers who made sincere contributions to the scientific inquiry. Whether this is a truthful version of the events is yet to be determined. In the meantime, she is in deep shit with her former employer. Insinuations that evidence of scientific misconduct might be tampered with or destroyed are conveyed by the order not to do so. Whether this is grandstanding by the former employer or a warning based on reasonable suspicion, again, remains to be seen.

      A fairly significant event, that of an accused researcher being arrested as one consequence of a controversy over possible scientific misconduct (that involved a partial retraction), seems like an appropriate event to mention on this web site. Readers like to hear when an accused researcher loses a job at the institution where misconduct allegedly occurred. Readers like to hear when an accused researcher turns up employed at some other institution. Readers like to hear when an accused researcher apparently disappears from science altogether. All these are potential outcomes. Being arrested over a dispute about scientific misconduct is also a potential outcome. I am not surprised that the editors decided this was worth an entry. If this researcher is later found to be wholely blameless in the affair, I am confident that the editors will post an entry publicizing that outcome, as well.

      JudyH

      November 19, 2011 at 11:48 am

      • Dear JudyH,

        This is only a general point.

        Sometimes American English is different from British English, or may be it is the circles I move in.

        I was unsure what “grandstanding” meant. You might assume a spectator as in viewing from the grandstand, but I now believe it means somebody putting on a show.

        We often know the word, but not what it means. For example, does “lucked out” mean that you were lucky, or ran out of luck? The British are notoriously bad at guessing what something might mean. A letter different between an English word and some foreign word and they are completely lost.

        Clare Francis

        November 20, 2011 at 6:16 am

      • “In the meantime, she is in deep shit with her former employer.”

        Perfection in words. Nicely done.

        Cointreau Leviticus

        January 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm

  4. Warning to all scientists. Don’t work at the WPI.

    The Whittmemores are maybe the most powerful family in Nevada and if you disturb there cash flow look out.

    It was right after Dr. Mikovits said the Whittemores XMRV test they were offering for big bucks was not reliable and needed to be shelved that the Whittemores fired her and went after her legally.

    This is about greed vs caring IMO. Dr. Mikovits has only tried to help patients for 2 years. PAtients most of the medical community leaves for dead and scorns. And this is her reward. Unbelievable.

    Dave Thomas

    November 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm

  5. What a story. I will anxiously wait for all the facts before I burn anyone at the stake.

    John

    November 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm

  6. IThe only real reason to take lab notebooks & digital information against the law could be to protect herself – presumably they show she has lied & her “data” is nonsense. If she’d let them hold on to them they would have investigated & been able to find out whether her data was merely flawed or whether she’d done even worse than been a poor “scientician” & perhaps even lied. By removing the information she has made sure she’s the only one who will ever know which it is. Shameful.

    John

    November 19, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    • There is more than one reason for her to have taken her lab notes. They could hold incriminating evidence against the WPI, it’s her research, and she would need her notes to continue her work elsewhere.

      The WPI could destroy or alter her notes to discredit her or claim it as their intellectual property ($) so they can exclude her from continuing her work. Neither law nor medicine are my fields, but I am sure there are several other possibilities for what she did.The information she took might be the one thing that can vindicate her.

      This is a shocking turn of events, but let’s not rush to judgement.

      As for me personally, I have had CFS/ME for 18 1/2 years. I started taking Viread and Isentress ( anti-retroviral drugs ) in Feb. 2011 and my blood work shows a dramatic improvement, much like an AIDS patient when they receive treatment but the response was much faster. So I have good reason to side with Judy.

      I have 2 autoimmune diseases. One, Celiac Sprue, is an autoimmune response brought on by exposure to gluten. There is a virus that has a protein coat of gluten. After acquiring the virus, the body perceives gluten as the virus and attacks any cells associated with gluten as being infected and destroys them.
      There could be a similar connection i.e. XMRV/MLV or a similar virus may trigger an autoimmune response which is why some CFS patients are responding to Rituximab. It is just my simple hypothesis as a layperson, and I look forward to a time when these matters are settled.

      larry depuy

      November 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    • Well, the data are technically property of the institution, so I wouldn’t see her being able to transfer them anywhere. Perhaps if she’d left the institution on more amicable terms (read: not fired), then that MAY be arranged.

      However, the big allegation here is that some data may have been destroyed. To me, that seems like there would have to be proof of said destruction because how does one discern some data being lost (as in notebooks by accident being moved elsewhere and forgotten, or some data being thrown away without malicious aforethought, or some harddrives or servers crashing) versus data being intentionally destroyed.

      There has to be some definitive proof that Mikovits allegedly destroyed data or else her lawyer would have out of jail by now.

      Brad Casali

      November 21, 2011 at 5:54 pm

  7. I find it hard to believe that this a good remedy in resolving a dispute over intellectual property, this seems exceptionally harsh treatment. We will see as more facts emerge, but it does seem extraordinary to have her imprisoned without bond on a felony fugitive from justice charge because of a preliminary-injunction in a civil lawsuit.

    joe

    November 20, 2011 at 3:18 am

    • Re: “it does seem extraordinary to have her imprisoned without bond on a felony fugitive from justice charge because of a preliminary-injunction in a civil lawsuit.”

      Yes, it does sound extraordinary. We really don’t know why she was arrested yet, only what the charge is. Everyone is quick to jump to conclusions, and while they may be correct, I simply don’t know yet and I will wait for the facts to be published.

      John

      November 20, 2011 at 9:19 am

      • Maybe some of those “jumping to conclusions” actually have followed this drama for a while.
        Maybe they base their conclusions on the different behaviour of Judy Mikovits, Lilly Meehan etc versus the Whittemores… Just saying Maybe… and maybe even some have spoken with a few of those involved… maybe….
        What is not a maybe is that I BELIEVE 100 % in Judy Mikovits, and that I do hope JUSTICE and and NOT the FINANCIALLY CORRUPTET BROTHERHOOD will win this case….

        Elisabeth

        November 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm

  8. How does Washoe County get a fugitive warrant based on a civil lawsuit?? Something is missing here. Surely there must be a felony charge that they are acting on, perhaps a claim of theft of the research data. Can we check with them? This whole affair smells to high heaven.
    @Dave Thomas says that the Whittemores were offering an expensive test for XMRV (presumably based on their flawed research) and that Mikovits warned against using it… seems a bit premature to be offering a test for a virus that hasn’t been confirmed to be a cause of CFS. More about this,, anyone?

    Conrad T Seitz MD

    November 20, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    • Lots of ppl wanted to know if they had the XMRV even if nothing yet was banked. All the controversy around this illness makes ppl desperate. I do understand your question fully, but I think for a patient it is about wanting to see some signs/proof – the hunt for physical evidence of the illness. ME is not like cancer, at least not yet. And mind you, this all started before the norwegian breakthrough :)

      Elisabeth

      November 20, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    • Because Mikovits’ arrest was not associated in any way with the civil lawsuit at all. The Whittemore Peterson Institute lodged a formal theft complaint against Mikovits with local law enforcement and are now claiming that this arrest is just part of that process.

      Annette Whittemore, president of the Whittemore Peterson Institute, has issued the following statement:

      “The Whittemore Peterson Institute was required to report the theft of its laboratory materials to law enforcement authorities. These authorities are taking the actions that they deem necessary.”[1]

      [1]Source: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/11/controversial-cfs-researcher-arr.html?ref=hp

      George Jetson

      November 20, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      • Thanks George – you’ve filled in that blank. We now know:

        • Judy was arrested in California on a Fugitive from Justice warrant.
        • The arrest is because of charges brought in Washoe County, Nevada.
        • Apparently the charges are in relation a theft that was reported from the WPI.

        WPI says lab notebooks and a laptop PC were “stolen” from them. Judy says she didn’t take them.
        For whatever reason (the next blank that needs to be filled in), the police in Washoe County believe that Judy has these items in her possession and that she left the state to avoid prosecution.

        If Judy has any of these items in her possession and she told the police she didn’t – this could be very bad.

        If Judy has any of this in her possession and she never lied to the police but feels she has a right to it, then a lot will ride on what the courts decide relating to ownership.

        I’ve worked for a scientific research organization, the U.S. government, engineering positions in commercial companies and for a government contractor. In every instance I had to sign a statement before I started that clearly defined the ownership of any and all work I did, including laboratory notebooks.

        WPI being rather new to the research game, I wonder if and what they had Judy sign off on when she started.

        Stay tuned – it’s going to be a while before this all is over.

        John

        November 20, 2011 at 5:43 pm

  9. Hi, Clare Francis. I don’t see a “reply” option below your comment, so I must reply here.

    Sorry to be obscure. Grandstand, an intransitive verb, means “to play or act so as to impress onlookers” (from Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, copyright 1975, yes, indeed, an American product). So it’s playing to the grandstand, playing to the audience.

    And “lucked out” can be used both positively and negatively. You must rely on the context to convey whether the person is lucky or unlucky when s/he lucks out. The “letter different between an English word and some foreign word” wouldn’t be the letter u, would it? Because you lot (learned that from a former supervisor, who was British) throw in many superfluous us that confuse us on this side of the pond. :-)

    JudyH

    November 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    • Dearest JudyH,

      Claire Francis also said:

      “Sometimes American English is different from British English, or may be it is the circles I move in.”

      Proper use of the Queen’s English, as practised(1) by those who would be lettered (be they Yankee or Engerlander), would dictate that the words, ‘may’ and ‘be’ in the above quotation be conflated to form one word, ‘maybe’.
      Also, ending a sentence with a preposition is just something up with which Sir Winston and I will not normally put.

      When one ignores the need for the letter ‘u’ in words such as: labour, humour and flavour, one is opening a veritable Pandora’s Box of woe. It is only a matter of time before one will begin to replace the letter ‘s’ with the letter ‘z’ in words such as: organise and Americanise. And what’s worse? Y’all will start calling the letter ‘z’, ‘Zee’ and not by its proper name, ‘Zed’!
      Be afraid. Be very afraid.

      (1) Practi-s-ed in Blighty. Practi-c-ed in The Revolted Colonies.

      Bilious C. Pudenda

      November 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      • Dear Bil,

        The US swallowed us. We have to get on with it. “Conflate” is not a word the British use. “Connote” is also another pompous one.

        Prepositions at the end are fine.

        A bit of “cut-and-paste”.

        “Supposedly an editor had clumsily rearranged one of Churchill’s sentences to avoid ending it in a preposition, and the Prime Minister, very proud of his style, scribbled this note in reply: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.””

        Clare Francis

        November 23, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    • Thanks. I am a bit concrete. I don’t know where where got our funny spelling from.
      I believe that there was a fashion for introducing Latinized words, which might explain it,or perhaps not.
      I have a stiff keyboard which might explain mine.

      Clare Francis

      November 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm

  10. @John

    “If Judy has any of this in her possession and she never lied to the police but feels she has a right to it, then a lot will ride on what the courts decide relating to ownership.”

    I don’t think the ‘feeling of a right to ownership’ has anything to do with it. If WPI reported a felonious theft to the police of their property (regardless of if this was a notebook full of her work), then it is still theft (at least, not relating to intellectual, but rather actual, physical ownership).

    She is clearly in custody now, and it will be up to the state district attorney (who deals with felonies and misdemeanors, and not WPI) whether they will prosecute.

    Personally, if she stole things, she stole things. If the police got involved, then there has to be some actual probable cause to make an arrest.

    Brad Casali

    November 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    • We now know the answer, but the ‘feeling of a right to ownership’ I referred to would be used to determine if it was a criminal action (theft) or a civil action, the tort known as conversion.

      John B

      February 18, 2012 at 7:03 pm

  11. OK, now I understand. WPI reported the alleged theft of a notebook computer or perhaps printouts from their faciliities, named Judy as the suspect, and told the police where she had gone. A simple procedure to go and pick her up, that is if you are a powerful entity who can tell the police what their job is. I don’t think an ordinary individual would get that kind of assistance from the police.
    If WPI was selling the test for XMRV to people who wanted to know if they were infected (based on WPI’s research, presumably) then they were committing an unethical act. They had no real proof, even initially, that XMRV was the etiologic agent of CFS. It would appear that they merely wished to make money by catering to the fears of a group of people who were unusually worried and potentially quite gullible. Never mind that positive test results are not helpful in determining treatment; if I were such a patient I would take an antiretroviral as a trial regardless of whether I was XMRV positive or not.

    Conrad T Seitz MD

    November 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm

  12. WPI’s website has the affidavits of Pfost and others about the alleged theft of the laboratory notebooks for Mikovits.

    http://www.wpinstitute.org/index.html

    Brad Casali

    November 22, 2011 at 11:53 pm

  13. If I were her, I would just give everything back. Those affidavits illustrate that she has carefully planned a theft. All of this can tend to dig her deeper into a hole in terms of punitive measures in regards to the law. She sounds either bat-shyt crazy, determined to break the law, or, possibly both.

    On the other hand, It seems that all that WPI wants is the return of the stolen notebooks (which are technically theirs). Much of the reply to the opposition for the motion for preliminary injunction centers on the basis that if the notebooks and computers are returned, WPI will drop the charges. WPI sounds like they have a solid case against her, and it seems like they are willing to play hardball.

    Brad Casali

    November 23, 2011 at 8:19 pm

  14. I just read the documents available on the WPI website and they’re very entertaining, especially the two affidavits from M. Pfost. Apparently Mikovits thinks WPI is crooked and had Pfost remove 12-20 lab notebooks besides the data on her laptop–so WPI used the long arm of the law to have her arrested and returned to Reno (I don’t know whether they got the notebooks back.) Pfost apparently was under her influence and removed the notebooks from the lab, stored them, and then gave them to her…then he had a change of heart and “confessed” in the affidavit. I assume WPI pressured him with threats of being arrested himself.
    Why Mikovits needed all those notebooks is a question; it would seem that she believes there has been bad science (as well as Medicare fraud) going on there and intended to reveal it in some way. Whether the need to expose fraud and bad science justifies the theft of a large quantity of laboratory notebooks going back five years I think depends on just how much evil WPI has been involved in.
    It certainly appears that the discussion over XMRV as a cause of CFS has been closed and WPI’s work in this area completely discredited. Further, it appears that WPI tried to profit from the XMRV work by selling a test for XMRV to patients. How much more of WPI’s work is no good is definitely open to question based on Mikovits’ behavior (whether we condone it or not.)

    Conrad T Seitz MD

    November 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    • I’m not sure what information, if any, laboratory notebooks would reveal about alleged medicare fraud, which usually occurs with medical insurance. The laboratory notebooks contained her (Mikovits’) work as detailed in the affidavits (Pfost used her keys to access her office to get the notebooks), and previous stories detailed here on Retraction Watch stated that Mikovits was in ‘talks’ with WPI to move her research to another institution, it is safe to assume (at least I will) that she wanted the notebooks so she could transfer her work to another institution.

      WPI, who owns the research as they are the institution to which the grants which supported the works were awarded, clearly did not want to have Mikovits do any more XMRV research (at least, not with data generated at their institute) otherwise Mikovits would have had to suborn theft by recruiting Pfost to steal the notebooks.

      As for Pfost, it is outlined in the Motion for Opposition for Preliminary Injunction that Mikovits rented a place to Pfost. With this in mind, it is (at least) more understandable why he would be more ‘pliable’ to commit theft. Pfost no doubt could have been charged for felony theft as well (as he was the one who actually committed theft), but it seems that WPI, which employs him as a student, most likely may have taken the stance that, instead of prosecution, they would have threatened to fire him as well.

      This is of course, my opinion.

      Who knows why she stole the notebooks? Whether she stole them for some divine purpose to expose WPI’s evil doings or to merely destroy or alter them so as to support her alleged misconduct or if she just wanted them to continue her research, the law does not concern itself with motive. WPI has already evinced itself as a powerful opponent.

      But, in this case, the law is technically on their side.

      Brad Casali

      November 23, 2011 at 11:01 pm

  15. She may be “crazy” and her behavior appears irrational, but that doesn’t mean that her complaints about WPI are invalid. In fact, I think her crazy behavior suggests she is powerfully motivated by some (perceived?) injustice.

    Conrad T Seitz MD

    November 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm

  16. A month ago – just after Mikovits left – Whittemore posted a letter on the WPI website:

    http://www.wpinstitute.org/news/docs/WPI_101911.pdf

    Key quote

    “Our goal of creating novel biomarkers of disease led to the development of retroviral clinical assays for doctors and their patients using the most current knowledge at the time. Dr. Mikovits was integral to the decision to offer clinical tests to help inform and to protect the patients from a potentially infectious retrovirus. Despite WPI’s continued commitment to retroviral studies, we have decided that Unevx will delay offering retroviral testing until the Lipkin study is completed.”

    This appears to be an attempt to credit / blame Mikovits for the idea to offer XMRV tests to the public.

    Neuroskeptic

    November 24, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    • I agree, but it’s not without merit: Judy Mikovits has supported the VipDx testing on many occasions, including showing slides that read “Personal reasons to be tested”. Some quotes from Mikovits that show that she didn’t exactly distance herself from VipDx testing:

      “Everyone who is positive is definitely positive for having the virus. But we don’t know what the people are, what the doctor’s sending in [to VipDx], so the people could not have that disease.”

      ..and..

      “At VIPdx, as soon as we have the serology we’ll go back and do all the negatives. We save them. So we’ll go back and we’ll… We do isolate virus from all of them, but it costs a lot, so… So if they’re really negative, we won’t isolate virus either. That’s correct. At VIPdx we’re going all the way to virus isolation, because we want to make sure we’re sure.”.

      RRM (@RegumM)

      November 25, 2011 at 6:36 pm

  17. IMHO, it is more probable that the theft of the data (most of which now appears to have been returned) was an attempt by Judy to conceal her own wrong doings. It’s much more likely that she was trying to save her own posterior by destroying evidence which could be used against her.

    Poodle Stomper

    November 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

  18. Let’s not forget that there may be a sexist component here… Just read about the comments about her being “crazy”. You don’t hear these kinds of comments made when a man behaves in a similar manner.

    Joseph Lakatos

    November 27, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    • That’s just crazy Joseph.

      John

      November 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm

      • Did you forget the sarcasm smilie? :)

        Joseph Lakatos

        November 28, 2011 at 5:32 am

  19. Hmm. First, Mikovits did support clinical use of the XMRV assay; but apparently she changed her mind for unknown reasons at the last and advised against it. Second, she appears to have been motivated by anger at other’s incompetence and/or malfeasance, at least according to the affidavits quotes: WPI is “going down.” The issue of Medicare fraud was to have been supported by other documents she tried to have stolen from another location at WPI. In addition, she attempted to have cell lines removed and/or diverted to other, outside researchers to prevent “incompetent” workers at WPI from using them. She claimed that it was “her” grant and she could direct that it be transferred to another institution. Doesn’t sound to me like she was trying to hide her own malfeasance.
    Sexism. (insert frowning smilie here.) A potential issue here, regarding how she was treated and how her behavior is perceived. Despite huge increases in female students, the positions at the very top are still held by old white men (like me.)
    I’m hoping that more information will come out that might explain her point of view. Unfortunately, when lawyers get involved, information flow tends to stop.

    Conrad T Seitz MD

    November 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    • Sexism exists in the world but it’s hard to see how it’s a factor in this case, unless we’re talking reverse sexism. (I’m female BTW)

      You can compare the way Mikovits is being treated with other prominent recent (male) fraudsters like Marc Hauser and Diederek Stapel. You can even compare her with the notable (male) disgraced pseudoscience guru Satoshi Kanazawa. Hauser, Stapel and Kanazawa don’t have any friends in the world nowadays, while Mikovits has thousands leaping to her defense and raising money for her legal defense fund.

      What is the difference? I don’t think it’s gender. I think the difference is that Mikovits told a pretty active special interest group exactly what they wanted to hear, and thereby earned their permanent adoration. If you tell a group of very irrational and passionate people what they really really really want to believe, you can apparently do no wrong in the world. It doesn’t matter whether your methods were sloppy or fraudulent, or whether you defrauded taxpayers, or even whether you stole things or harmed patients. All you have to do is say what people want to hear, and you will always be see as being on the side of the angels in some cosmic battle of good vs. evil.

      V

      November 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm

      • See Andrew Wakefield.

        Marco

        November 29, 2011 at 1:08 am

  20. Nobody talked about Hauser as if he was “crazy”. A psychopath and a liar, yes, but not “crazy”… And yes, there are many women in science who are not very nice to their female colleagues, because real men are not nice and helpful and they want to be like those men… In other words, V, assuming you do not have an axe to grind, I would just say that you do not seem to have a clue about sexism in science. Perhaps you were one of the few lucky women who got to high positions of power in science, impossible to tell from a blog where everyone can claim to be whatever they want.

    Joseph Lakatos

    November 29, 2011 at 6:32 am

  21. Dr. Oransky, thanks for an excellent summary of events so far in the Whittemore – Mikovits case. As a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome, my primary concern is that Mikovits’ research move forward. I understand that her concern is that she needs the data from her previous research in order to continue the NIH funded research on possibly new retroviruses infecting humans.

    The Whittemores have charged her with stealing the documents which they believe is their property. The research may well belong to the WPI, but Mikovits has a good case that she needs the documents to continue research. The Whittemores will not be able to replace Mikovits, especially after this mishandling of the situation. This means the research is likely to die along with all of us living dead chronic fatigue syndrome patients.

    Were the VPI lab tests a ripoff? At the time Mikovits and the WPI thought they were worth the price. Indeed, we patients were told that there were probably variants of the retrovirus like Dr. Lo’s findings that would not show up at the VIP lab. Personally I paid money for the VIP test knowing i might get a false negative and did. But that doesn’t mean all the positives were false.

    The possibility that a murine retrovirus is infecting humans has not been ruled out. My hope is that the Whittemores can come to some out of court agreement to drop charges against Mikovits and allow her to continue her research elsewhere, giving her the paperwork and even blood samples needed to do this.

    For the sake of millions of patients can’t we all get along?

    Paula Carnes

    December 2, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    • The WPI makes it pretty clear to whom the research belongs (read the last and first questions from their website, linked here: http://www.wpinstitute.org/research/research_qna.html).

      It seems all they want is what Mikovits allegedly conspired to steal. IMO, I don’t think they will let her come back, or else this wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

      Brad Casali

      December 3, 2011 at 12:10 am

  22. An updated story about the stolen notebooks:

    http://www.rgj.com/article/20111128/NEWS/111280325/Missing-notebooks-returned-Reno-chronic-disease-lab

    In a nutshell, the notebooks have been returned, and WPI will most likely drop the civil suit. However, the criminal case will still be pursued against Mikovits.

    Brad Casali

    December 3, 2011 at 12:19 am

  23. V does have a point, potentially debatable, about special interest groups. I don’t know anything about Mikovits’ history of advocacy here, but in general I think it becomes dangerous when people directly affected by a disease that is currently not treatable are enlisted into active research and kept “up to date” on the latest developments which may or may not be confirmed. You need to have objectivity to intelligently evaluate new research, and it is impossible to be objective when you see your life draining away, day by day.
    I don’t see how it benefits patients to offer a test for XMRV (and/or its variants) directly to them for pay, before there is clear confirmation that it is an etiologic factor in (causes) the disease. In this case it has clearly backfired.
    Patients are free to consult practicing physicians who may wish to try anti-retroviral drugs “off label” on them, with the caveat that it is a blind experiment with an n of 1. This is allowed and may be helpful to the patient. It may even be helpful to research if the physician can accumulate a case series
    But, in the case of XMRV, the institution supplying the test had a responsibility to the patients to not exploit them by selling them a test (as opposed to therapy) that did not have a definite, confirmed relationship to the disease.
    Was Mikovits exploiting patients by advocating her research position to them? Was/is WPI doing the same?
    Why was she so angry with them? Will she ever work again? Has XMRV become a blind alley? Can anybody clarify this?

    Conrad T Seitz MD

    December 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm

  24. It does appear that Judy was wrong taking the notebooks, but this article might shed some light on her motivation to do so:

    http://treatingxmrv.blogspot.com/2011/11/coming-clean.html

    John

    December 3, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    • Extremely enlightening…confirms my worst suspicions about WPI and the circumstances that led Mikovits to have the notebooks “stolen.” Seems she was a very hard working researcher who had much contact with patients–responding to their queries, etc. Maybe too much contact with patients. Appears she lost her “moral compass” due to the extreme circumstances. Apparently she didn’t foresee how Whittemore would react: with big guns.
      I begin to see a principle here: clinicians should stick to seeing patients and researchers should stick to their research. For a researcher to get involved with patients causes extreme stress and damages their objectivity.
      There’s no principle involved in WPI. None at all. Apparently a rich man and wife who had a daughter with ME/CFS decided to found an institute that would study it to find a treatment. They contributed a few hundred thousand dollars to it but most of the money came from NIH–several million. Apparently they found a successful treatment for the daughter based partly on Mikovits’ work. Once that was accomplished they apparently forgot about the institute (without relinquishing control of it, which doesn’t make any sense.) But they couldn’t resist the profit motive: charging $2400 (sic) for the blood test that turned out to be irrelevant!
      I’m just giving the gist of what I read–third hand–don’t take my word for it at all. If you’re interested the reference you gave is a good starting place for your dive “into the rabbit hole” (as the blogger described it.)
      My questions have been answered.

      Conrad T Seitz MD

      December 3, 2011 at 9:27 pm


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