We’ve followed plenty of controversies around drug trials, from ghostwriting to keeping quiet about unflattering results. But the latest news is particularly eye-popping: A prominent Massachusetts anesthesiologist allegedly fabricated 21 medical studies involving major drugs. Yikes.
Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., has asked several
anesthesiology journals to retract the studies, which appeared between
1996 and 2008, the WSJ reports. The hospital says its former chief of acute pain, Scott S. Reuben, faked data used in the studies.
Some of the studies reported favorable results from use of Pfizer’s
Bextra and Merck’s Vioxx, both painkillers that have since been pulled
from the market. Others offered good news about Pfizer’s pain drugs
Lyrica and Celebrex and Wyeth’s antidepressant Effexor XR. Doctors said
Reuben’s work was particularly influential in pain treatment and that
they were shocked by the news.
“We are left with a large hole in our understanding of this field,” Steven Shafer, editor-in-chief of Anesthesia and Analgesia, told Anesthesiology News,
which first reported on the retractions. “There are substantial
tendrils from this body of work that reach throughout the discipline of
postoperative pain management.”
Pfizer had funded some of Reuben’s research and had also paid him to
speak on behalf of its medicines. “It is very disappointing to learn
about Dr. Scott Reuben’s alleged actions,” Pfizer said in a statement
to WSJ. “When we decided to support Dr. Reuben’s research, he worked
for a credible academic medical center and appeared to be a reputable
Wyeth said it wasn’t aware of any financial relationship between the company and Reuben. Merck had no immediate comment.
As for Baystate, it said a routine audit last spring was what
flagged issues with Reuben’s work. Reuben, who is on indefinite leave,
didn’t respond to the WSJ’s requests for comment. But his attorney said
Reuben “deeply regrets that this happened.” The attorney also referred
to “extenuating circumstances,” but didn’t elaborate on what they were.
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