Probe into faked studies rocks medical community

Mar 15, 2009

A trail-blazing anesthesiologist, whose research shaped pain-relief for millions around the world, has been fabricating data for more than a decade, a hospital where he once practiced claimed Saturday.

Massachusetts-based doctor Scott Reuben is accused of producing at least 21 crooked research papers, some of which talked-up drugs made by a that gave him research grants.

"The reports contained fabricated data that was created solely by Dr Reuben," said Jane Albert, a spokeswoman for the Baystate Medical Center, where Reuben once practiced.

If proven, the discovery would be one of the biggest cases of medical on record -- spanning at least a decade and implicating potentially dozens of supposedly peer-reviewed articles.

According to journal & Analgesia at least 21 articles are in question dating back to 1996.

The journal's editor Steven Shafer said the discovery could prove a body blow to the field. "Doctors have been using (his) findings very widely. His findings had a huge impact on the field."

Although Baystate said there were no allegations involving patient care, Shafer cautioned against ruling out practical repercussions.

"We have to be open to the possibility there was patient injury. Nothing is without risk."

Reuben, 50, had been a high-profile proponent of anti-inflammatory drugs called COX2 inhibitors, which he claimed reduced post-surgical pain and dependence on steroids and addictive drugs like morphine.

Reuben plugged the use of one COX2 inhibitor -- Celebrex -- along with another drug called Lyrica, both manufactured by US-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc., as well as another anti-inflammatory drug made by Merck.

Anesthesia & Analgesia, where some of Reuben's work had been published, said he had received research grants from Pfizer and is a member of its speaker's bureau.

In a statement, Pfizer spokeswoman Sally Beatty said the firm was "not involved in the conduct of any of these independent studies or in the interpretation or publication of the study results."

"It is very disappointing to learn about Dr Scott Reuben's alleged actions," the company said.

Reuben's work first aroused suspicion when he submitted two abstracts for an annual Baystate research conference.

Assessors discovered that the data contained in the reports had not been cleared with the hospital's review board.

The investigation which began in spring last year "eventually uncovered an extensive history of fabrication dating back to 1996," Baystate's Jane Albert told AFP.

The 21 studies that have been discredited deal with anesthesia used in post-operative care ranging from knee to spinal surgery.

Reuben has been placed on leave since around May last year and is barred from "research and education activities at Baystate for at least ten years," Albert said.

Baystate has ruled out the involvement of other researchers. Another doctor whose name appears on some of the reports, told Scientific American Reuben had forged his signature on submission papers.

Reuben gained his medical degree at the State University of New York, and was thought to be a pioneer of multimodal analgesia -- which looks at pain relief combining a range of drugs.

Baystate said Reuben had "cooperated fully" with their investigation.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mass. doctor accused of faking pain pill data

Mar 11, 2009

(AP) -- A Massachusetts anesthesiologist has been accused of faking data for a dozen years in 21 published studies that suggested after-surgery benefits from painkillers including Vioxx and Celebrex.

Morphine kills pain -- not patients

Mar 21, 2007

Many people, including health care workers, believe that morphine is a lethal drug that causes death when used to control pain for a patient who is dying. That is a misconception according to new research published in the ...

Probing Question: How does anesthesia work?

Oct 25, 2007

Many inventions of the 19th century -- telephones, airplanes, phonographs -- have helped to shape the modern world. However, it could be argued that the 1846 discovery of effective surgical anesthesia holds a place of honor ...

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mysticshakra
1 / 5 (4) Mar 15, 2009
Rocks the medical community? This is pretty standard practice and always has been.
Doug_Huffman
3 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2009
One of the advantages of Western allopathic medicine is that it may be falsified. This is contrasted with the mystic shakra 'medicine' that some practice that does not make positive and falsifiable statements and is, thus, not scientific.

Go burn an auto-da-fe incense stick.
LariAnn
2 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2009
By analogy with the Madoff situation, one wonders how much more of this has been/is now going on in the medical and scientific communities, if only due to the pressure to "publish or perish". I know personally of some cancer "research" that was doctored up because it was done under a grant or funding from tobacco companies. When the rubber hits the road, people are people, fallible and subject to their own weaknesses . . .
VOR
2 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2009
The landscape of medical related pratices is so important it should not be left to the trappings and failings of capitalism. Capitalism is the best system in general. But, like police, fire, and other important functions, all aspects of healthcare from drug development to insurance to surgery need to be fully socialized to allow them to operate in the best interest of public health and not under the financial pressures and priorties that come with a profit-driven system.

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.