medicine University Affairs

Motherisk crook Gideon Koren now at Ariel University

The Israeli Ariel University recruited a doctor from hell to their newly established medical school: Gideon Koren, infamous for Motherisk and deferiprone scandals.

Welcome back to the Ariel University kakistocracy show. In my previous post, I presented the fictional academic achievements of the rector, Professor Michael Zinigrad. I also mentioned that the “settlers’ university”, located in the occupied territories, was about to open a medical school with the help of the Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and some ultra-right Israeli politicians. Well, they achieved that now, and guess who is their star recruitment: the corrupt, greedy, lying crook Gideon Koren, so toxic that he had to surrender his medical licence and flee Canada. But now Koren is Professor at the Adelson Medical School at Ariel University.

That travesty masquerading as an institution of Israeli higher education is actually the right place for dishonest and corrupt people like Koren. Rector Zinigrad himself got bumped upstairs and was now appointed by his fellow Soviet emigree and new Minister of Higher Education, Zeev Elkin, as member of the Council of Higher Education Committee for Planning and Budgeting. This committee controls the allocation of the entire Higher Education Budget. A nepotism decision which promptly received criticism:

“The President of Haifa University, Prof. Ron Rubin, who is the chairman of the Committee of University Presidents, wrote to Elkin that it was “the appointment of Yes-Man who is committed to the Minister.”

Prof. Rubin also wrote that “Academic appointment for unimportant reasons means one thing – politicization of the professional and independent committee that deals with the distribution of institutions’ budgets.

[…] the candidate on Elkin’s behalf “does not meet even the minimum requirements of this criterion.” The Committee of University Presidents explains that “Zinigrad’s academic work does not meet the threshold conditions that would have allowed him to gain tenure at any other research university in the country.

With Zinigrad soon in charge of the nation’s research budget, Ariel is seeking to appoint a new rector. The search committee selected three candidates, one unlucky applicant now lodged a lawsuit against Ariel University claiming that the candidate selection was biased. Ariel President Yehuda Danon sent a letter to the voting faculty mandating that the election results cannot be published by court order.

Update 6.07.2020: Zinigrad now withdrew his candidacy to the Higher Ed Council’s Planning Committee, as “not to enter any political conflicts“.

Koren, a toxic waste

The new professor at Ariel University’s new Sheldon Adelson Medical School is a certain Gideon Koren, age 73, who left Israel in 1970ies for Canada, to return in 2015 after two gigantic scandals: the deferiprone case and the Motherisk drug test affair. Actually, it seems EVERYTHING Koren published about drugs and motherhood was rotten. Even today, journalistic investigations uncover new lies and more fraud.

Right now, another case of Koren’s research, this time about codeine and mother’s milk, is being disputed. The Canadian newspaper The Star, which covers his case for many years, now writes:

“Sick Kids’s internal review of Koren’s papers is ongoing. A hospital spokesperson said a preliminary review of nearly 1,000 articles has identified “some studies that required specific in-depth reviews from conflict-of-interest, research ethics, scientific or other perspectives”

Koren’s current Wikipedia page is the outcome of a prolonged editing war his sock-puppets waged and basically won. The Motherisk affair was difficult to suppress, given the massive reporting by the Canadian media. But the drug deferiprone, marketed by the Canadian pharma giant Apotex to treat the anaemic disease thalassaemia, is painted on the current Wikipedia record as safe and functional, with Koren exonerated, the whistleblower presented a crazy hysterical woman, and all past online evidence to the contrary long since deleted. But some of it, including two misconduct reports, survived on the Wayback archive where I found them and share below, thanks to this Wikipedia Talk page.

Back when the two affair happened, from 1990ies up until 2015, the Israeli-trained medical doctor Koren rose to the rank of professor and institute director at the University of Toronto, clinically affiliated with its Hospital for Sick Children, now know as SickKids.

Deferiprone and the whistleblower Nancy Olivieri

The thalassaemia drug deferiprone (then called L1) was developed and marketed by the Canadian pharma giant Apotex. The SickKids haematologist Nancy Olivieri was principal investigator on two deferiprone/L1 trials in med-1990ies and blew the whistle about the drugs efficiency and safety, with Apotex, Koren and even the university hospital retaliating. One now deleted blog post from 2012 describes:

In the mid-1990s, Olivieri was overseeing a number of Apotex-funded clinical trials in Toronto and other cities when she became concerned that the drug might not be as effective as she had believed.(L1 is a product that helps remove excess iron in the heart and liver — a potentially fatal side effect of the frequent blood transfusions thalassemia patients must undergo. It remains the only oral alternative to the standard treatment, Desferal, a drug that is delivered via painful injections, and one that some patients have to stop taking because of discomfort and side effects.)

There is however that over 500 pages heavy 2001 investigative report for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, by Jon Thompson, Patricia Baird and Jocelyn Downie which I present below. This is what the report says:

Koren was the one who initiated the collaboration with Apotex, and who ran the two clinical trial on deferiprone/L1 together with his co-investigator Olivieri. In 1996, Koren’s partner noticed that the drug didn’t really work long-term but possibly had serious side-effect of liver fibrosis, and moved to inform the patients, as advised by the ethics review board. Apotex disagreed with all that and threatened to sue Olivieri should she say a word to the trial participants. While threatening Olivieri to keep silent, Apotex pulled the plug on both deferiprone/L1 trials right away. But Koren and the SickKids were everything but happy about that.

Because of the Olivieri’s whistleblowing, the University of Toronto lost a gigantic $92 Million donation already negotiated with Apotex. Koren however continued being showered with Apotex money. Which motivated him to publish his own analysis of the trial results, behind Olivieri’s back, where Koren claimed in conference abstracts and a peer reviewed paper Diav-Citrin et al 1999 that deferiprone/L1 works beautifully, without mentioning the $250k discretionary grant he received from Apotex. Although he used the clincial data generated by Olivieri and other colleagues, Koren suppressed their negative results (already published as Olivieri et al NEJM 1998), while Olivieri and her contributors were deleted from the deferiprone/L1 gospel according to Koren.

Instead of supporting Olivieri against Apotex’ lawsuit threats, SickKids opened a misconduct investigation against her. Thus emboldened, Koren started a three-pronged attack on Olivieri: he submitted fabricated allegations to the investigative committee, provided false testimony to Apotex which the pharma giant also submitted to accuse Olivieri during the SickKids investigation, and on top of that, Koren sent five anonymous letters to media where he kept slandering Olivieri and her supporters. He later tried to frame some colleague as the alleged author of these missiles designed to discredit and to intimidate the whistleblowers.

Sick Kids took the view that there was no problem with the drug, just a “scientific controversy”, which must be resolved by “peer review”. When peer reviewed literature supported Olivieri’s warnings, Sick Kids ignored those studies and kept relying solely on Koren’s fake evidence, despite his proven record of lying, his financial conflict of interest and his lack of any expertise in the field of thalassemia.

Olivieri was removed as programme director and sanctioned by Sick Kids, accused of failing to report the adverse effect risk of liver fibrosis which Koren himself admitted to have known, been personally officially in charge of reporting about, and having chosen not to report. Koren, who before and after described deferiprone/L1 as free of side effects in his peer reviewed papers, warned the SickKids investigator in his signed letters of the drug’s “life threatening toxicity”, and succeeded in getting Olivieri convicted for his own misconduct.

In 2000, Sick Kids even requested that the University of Toronto and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) to investigate Olivieri for professional malpractice. However, just months before Koren was disciplined by the Sick Kids and the university for “gross misconduct” because of those anonymous intimidating letters to Olivieri’s colleagues with copies to media. Koren eventually “admitted to misconduct and lying” after his authorship was exposed when a private detective, a linguist, and some forensic and document experts hired and paid by Olivieri’s colleagues found Koren’s DNA on the anonymous letters slandering them. SickKids refused to admit that evidence as biased, but eventually they had enough of Koren’s constant lies and manipulative behaviour.

Excerpts from Koren’s anonymous letters to Olivieri’s colleagues. Source: this blog.

Still, the whistleblowers were ordered to undergo a “mediation process” with Koren, who, despite misconduct findings on 3 counts, including destruction of evidence (a computer), was still seen as the good guy by SickKids, citing his accomplishments “as a researcher” and “an outpouring of sympathy” from his colleagues. The hospital suspended Koren for a couple of months without pay and made him pay a fine of $35k. SickKids also decided that the fake evidence Koren submitted to the investigative committee to get Olivieri sanctioned was still 100% honest and true.

The final report concluded that Koren must be made accountable and that Olivieri was wrongly accused and should be paid “redress for the unfair treatment she has received”. It seems, at leats the former request bore no fruit.

In their later communications, the Olivieri report authors Thompson, Baird and Downie noted, as reply to this editorial:

it must be noted that the administrations of the University, the Hospital and Apotex declined our invitation to participate.”

They invited to read their full report in public domain, which was since deleted. But one can still buy it as a the book, which is however out of print. More documents about the deferiprone affair are available on this website.

Motherisk: a faulty drug test

Koren founded the Motherisk programme together with SickKids in 1985, advising pregnant women about drugs:

Within five years, Motherisk becomes a leading resource for pregnant and lactating women and their doctors about the effects of medication, alcohol and street drugs, and opens a research lab.

From 1999 on, Motherisk started selling dysfunctional tests to screen for drugs in hair, and made millions of dollars with the scam which destroyed many families and even cost lives.

The Toronto Star and CBC did an excellent investigative reporting of the Motherisk affair which is presented in this 2017 article:

“Motherisk raked in millions performing hair-strand drug and alcohol tests on at least 25,000 people across Canada. The tests were discredited, but not before they were used in at least eight criminal cases and thousands of child protection cases.

So far, the Ontario review has identified 50 cases where Motherisk’s tests had a significant impact on decisions to remove children from their families. Many of those decisions can’t be undone.”

You sure can guess that it was not SickKids who found out Koren’s new scam. In fact, it was The Star journalists who originally uncovered the Motherisk fraud in November 2014. Initially, Sick Kids and the Ontario government defended Motherisk hair tests (are you surprised?), but soon after the newspaper reports broke, they appointed the retired judge Susan Lang to investigate the “adequacy and reliability” of the Motherisk hair tests done between 2005 and 2010.

In 2015, Lang was asked to investigate the more recent cases also. Sick Kids’ CEO issued a public apology. In 2016, another retired judge, Judith Beaman, was tasked to lead the $10-million Motherisk Commission, to investigate the 25 years history of individual child protection cases. The Star writes:

“The Motherisk scandal emerged in late 2014, after an expert witness challenged the reliability of the lab’s evidence in the case of a Toronto mom convicted in 2009 of repeatedly feeding her toddler cocaine, leading up to a near-fatal overdose. The criticisms of Motherisk led the Ontario Court of Appeal to toss Tamara Broomfield’s cocaine-related convictions. But it wasn’t until spring 2015, after Sick Kids had shuttered the lab during Lang’s review, that provincial governments addressed the use of hair-strand testing.”

Only in March 2015 did Sick Kids suspend “all non-research operations” at Motherisk. Koren weaseled himself out of finally being convicted of fraud and sacked, by resigning from his job at Sick Kids and buggering off back to Israel in 2015. His Motherisk centre ceased to be four years later.

Except that it wasn’t. The internet domain motherisk.org still exists and leads to a strange website offering cannabis-based “CBD oils” against everything and in particular against morning sickness in pregnancy. SickKids pretends to have no clue who is behind that, and the website doesn’t tell. But then there is for example this fresh new study from 2020 by the AU professor Koren, about “The use of cannabis for Hyperemesis Gravidarum”, declaring:

“The study was conducted by the Motherisk Program, an academic counseling and follow- up service for women experiencing [morning sickness]”

Any doubts as to who might be running the Motherisk scam long after it officially was shut down in Toronto? Now full circle back to its beginnings of 1985, with drug advice, only this time pregnant women are not advised against, but literally sold cannabis?

Ariel University must be high.

Screnshot Motherisk.org

Moving on

Back in Israel, Koren started working at Maccabi Health Insurance. Israeli organisation Physicians for Human Rights contacted Maccabi to complain about Koren’s recruitment. In December 2018, a newspaper reported:

The same doctor co-founded a women’s counselling centre at Assaf Harofe Hospital and lectures at at least two other universities in Israel. Following the inquiry of “Israel Today”, Maccabi announced that the doctor will be on vacation until the end of investigation in his case. […] Asaf’s doctor said: “Prof. Gidi Koren is not employed by us. He sometimes comes to the hospital as a volunteer“.

That was probably because Koren’s troubles in Canada did not end and followed him to the Holy Land. In 2017, The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) decided that maybe what Koren did at Motherisk was not kosher after all. They remembered his slandering of Olivieri which resulted in SickKids’ request to CPSO to strip the whistleblower of her medical licence. Now however, University of Toronto and SickKids finally asked CPSO started to investigate Koren.

Archived CPSO record here

It was about the 5 anonymous letters and the fraudulent paper Diav-Citrin et al 1999, where Koren stole Olivieri’s deferiprone trial results to turn them on their head while omitting the huge cash grant he received from Apotex. CPSO decreed:

The Discipline Committee found that Dr. Koren committed acts of professional misconduct, in that he engaged in an act or omission relevant to the practice of medicine that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional; and that his conduct was unbecoming a physician.”

Koren was fined and reprimanded, with the comment:

However, the Committee admitted to being deeply troubled by this case. It defies belief that an individual of Dr. Koren’s professed character and integrity could author such vicious diatribes against his colleagues as he did in the “poison pen letters”. His actions were childish, vindictive and dishonest. It was only when confronted with irrefutable scientific evidence of his guilt did he admit that he was the perpetrator.”

The press release, together with the full report, were since purged from official websites and blogs. But I found it on Wayback archive, here it is:

Also the Canadian journalists kept investigating and in 2018 they found evidence of more fraud in Koren’s papers. They reported it to Koren’s employer:

“Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children has announced a wholesale review of the vast body of published work by Dr. Gideon Koren, the former director of the discredited Motherisk lab, amid a Star investigation that identified what appear to be problems in more than 400 of Koren’s papers.”

The hospital’s investigation was once again so unbiased and thorough that entire TWO of these 422 papers were retracted. 2 other papers received a permanently unresolvable Expression of Concern and 4 more were corrected, as of today. Otherwise, in December 2018 SickKids issued a rebuttal to Toronto Star reporting:

  • Hidden sources of industry cash in 271 papers? “The Hospital is therefore reviewing all of Dr. Koren’s publications from 2001 forward to check disclosures and will communicate any relevant findings to the journals.
  • Fake peer review in 199 papers in one single Koren-friendly journal? “As Canadian Family Physician has acknowledged, the responsibility for ensuring the quality of the studies it publishes rests primarily with the journal.”
  • False results of Motherisk’s faulty drug hair tests in 64 papers? “The journals that have published these studies share responsibility for addressing this issue and to the extent our work results in any findings, our plan is to disclose same to the journals.
  • Fabricated results in 5 drug test papers where even SickKids admitted Koren committed research misconduct? “it is the Hospital’s position that it is not possible to state with certainty that the study results were not impacted. No further action proposed.”
  • 30 Diclectin/morning sickness papers with industry funding omitted? “The Hospital is reviewing all of Dr. Koren’s publications from 2001 forward to check disclosures and will communicate any relevant findings to the journals.
  • 6 papers found problematic by the journal Therapeutic Drug Monitoring? “The Hospital is looking into these articles.
  • The paper Diav-Citrin et al 1999, with data stolen from Olivieri, found fraudulent by the Sibbald committee 20 years ago? “This issue was addressed many years ago by the University of Toronto and the Hospital has no further comment.”

Do you want to now how SickKids addressed it “many years ago” in 2004? With an Erratum:

In our 1999 TDM paper (Diav-Citrin et al: “An investigation into variability in the therapeutic response to deferiprone in patients with thalassemia major” (1), we indicated having received partial support from the Medical Research Council of Canada—Industry Program, but the specific industry sponsor, Apotex Inc. of Weston Ontario, was not referenced. We regret this oversight and acknowledge Apotex for its support.

The paper was only retracted in April 2019, months after SickKids declared the case closed “many years ago”. Apparently, Koren was ordered to retract the paper already in 2002. Only after journalists reminded the University of Toronto in late 2018, things happened, with a small delay of 17 years. The retraction notice went:

The article “An investigation into variability in the therapeutic response to deferiprone in patients with thalassemia major” by Diav-Citrin et al. has been retracted due to concerns regarding academic and research misconduct, including the use of collaborators’ data without their consent, and, as a consequence, inappropriate assignment of authorship. Moreover, the manufacturer of the studied drug was not appropriately identified as a funding source. This was corrected in an Erratum published in Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, Volume 26, Number 2, April 2004. However, none of the other issues were addressed. This retraction is supported by the results of an independent investigation conducted by the University of Toronto and a written retraction request by the senior author, who is listed as the last author.

Meanwhile, the deferprone affair was edited on Wikipedia and elsewhere to Koren’s favour. Motherisk-damaged parents sued Koren and SickKids in court and lost.

In 2019, The Star reported that Koren

“agreed to never practise medicine again in Ontario in the face of an investigation by the province’s medical regulator into whether he committed “professional misconduct or was incompetent” while he was in charge of the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk laboratory.”

The Holy Land of Opportunities

Now we know why Koren didn’t care anymore about his Canadian medical licence which he held since 1982. By then he probably was already negotiating with Rector Zinigrad and other clowns at Ariel University about his clinical professorship at the newly established Adelson School of Medicine. They were probably mightily impressed by his fraudulent CV, which boasts over 1700 publications (or 1517, or 638, or 381 papers, depending on the source).

Grand Opening of Adelson Medical School at Ariel University in 2019. At the podium, President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin. Sitting left to right:: Koren (photoshopped), Minister of Health Yakov Litzman, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, Sheldon Adelson and wife Miriam Adelson, AU President Yehuda Danon, Head of AU Governing Board Moshe Arens (former Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs), AU Chancellor Yigal Cohen-Orgad (former Minister of Finance, now deceased ), AU Rector Michael Zinigrad.


For some reason, the dean of the new Medical School, Shai Ashkenazi, was not part of the opening ceremony. So I put Koren, larger than life, in the empty seat.

At least other faculty members of the Medical School are not world-infamous crooks like Koren, they are mostly harmless, only sometimes lacking medical qualifications. Among the faculty’s 22 members are 6 biologists, one Biological Anthropologist (Gregory Livshits), one former chairman of Department of Chemical Engineering (Michael Firer), one member (Ahuva Golik) is listed as a “Clinical Professor” whose academic degree is a PhD, and no MD in sight.

And the of course there is Rector Zinigrad’s protegee and groomed successor whom you met in my earlier article, Albert Pinhasov, presently Vice President and Dean for Research & Development of Ariel University. Pinhasov also leads a Laboratory of Behavioural and Molecular Psychiatry, without having a medical degree. What Pinhasov is said to be good at, is predatory authorship: placing his name on papers of his Arial colleagues, without any real contribution. In fact, he just personally adds papers with his namesakes as his own. Like here, here , and here, of the Tel Aviv clinician Aviva Pinhasov:

A proper psychiatrist (which Pinhasov ain’t) would call this behaviour schizophrenic. Pinhasov’s wife, Olga Pinhasov, just received a MSc degree in mathematics from Ariel, the circumstances of which were so out of order that a complaint was lodged the university leadership.

But this is OK, remember there is thank G-d no hospital around where these “doctors” could train themselves to practice medicine.

The Mission statement of the Medical School mentions “clinical practice in the study of patients in small groups around the patient’s bed”. But there is not even a single hospital in Ariel, neither in the university campus nor otherwise in that occupied territory. Not one hospital bed.

Maybe they plan to do home visits? Hello Mrs Cohen, my name is Professor Gidi Koren, we are with the Ariel University, now can we go to your kitchen please, and up the table, thank you Mrs Cohen, or and by the way, would you or Mr Cohen like to buy some cannabis?


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8 comments on “Motherisk crook Gideon Koren now at Ariel University

  1. Leonid, this is one time when your black and white polemic approach probably lets your subject off too easy. Koren’s entire career has been facilitated by the failure of those above and around him to perform due diligence, and it looks like his new institution continues that pattern. A vast circle of ruined and maimed lives radiates out from him like a toxic field, and he has never come close to giving a damn. He makes Trump look modest, self-reflective and empathetic. BTW, cannabis is legal in Canada, and medical cannabis is available in Israel.

    Like

    • You think I paint Sick Kids and UoT in too good light 😉

      Like

      • I don’t think UofT had much to do with it, and they have long ago demonstrated a complete lack of competence in dealing with con artists. Sick Kids certainly did not cover themselves with glory, and their main mistake was not getting the cops involved the moment Motherisk started to go sour. Everyone in his field knows Koren is a scientific fraud, but he should be behind bars for felony fraud and conspiracy to commit perjury. He will certainly never set foot in Canada again unless he arrives shackled in a bag.

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  2. Concerned scientist

    Dr. Schneider, you are being too easy on the Ariel University by blaming just a few of the academic leaders of the University. This university like other universities in Israel has a Senate of full professors. Where are they? Why they are not protesting against the corrupt people that are managing them? Worse than this, the head of the Israeli Council for Higher Education, Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats is supporting the academic crook Zinigrad and the Ariel University. The whole academic establishment in Israel should be ashamed that the Higher Education Council is supporting this university.

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  3. The correct name is “occupied Palestinian territory”, not “occupied territories” (‘if names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success’ – Confucius)

    Like

  4. Pingback: #MetooSTEM - la rinuncia - Ocasapiens - Blog - Repubblica.it

  5. Physician

    I agree with a previous comment that Gideon Koren should be behind bars. The role of Ariel University in accepting a crook should not be ignored. As a physician and a faculty member in an Israeli Medical School for many years, I have been terrified to think how Ariel University received a license for a Medical School. Many of the Ariel University officials are comprised of emeritus faculty members with mutual interests (to keep their posts until the age of 120 y). As Leonid mentioned, some faculty members are very capable of adding their names on every publication without contributing even a comma. Administration of Ariel university and especially the Medical School should be investigated in view of this scandalous appointment and all the other problems mentioned in the article. This is apparently the tip of iceberg of problems at Ariel University.

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