Saturday, April 4, 2009

Big Pharma: Fake Science = Big Profits

Top Pain Scientist Fabricated Data In Studies
By Keith J. Winstein
David Armstrong
The Wall Street Journal

A prominent Massachusetts anesthesiologist allegedly fabricated 21 medical studies that claimed to show benefits from painkillers like Vioxx and Celebrex, according to the hospital where he worked.

Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, Mass., said that its former chief of acute pain, Scott S. Reuben, had faked data used in the studies, which were published in several anesthesiology journals between 1996 and 2008.

The hospital has asked the medical journals to retract the 21 studies, some of which reported favorable results from the use of painkillers like Pfizer Inc.'s Bextra and Merck & Co.'s Vioxx -- both since withdrawn -- as well as Pfizer's Celebrex and Lyrica. Dr. Reuben's research work also claimed positive findings for Wyeth's antidepressant Effexor XR as a pain killer. And he wrote to the Food and Drug Administration, urging the agency not to restrict the use of many of the painkillers he studied, citing his own data on their safety and effectiveness.

His work is considered important in encouraging doctors to combine the use of painkillers like Celebrex and Lyrica for patients undergoing common procedures such as knee and hip replacements.

Dr. Reuben had been a paid speaker on behalf of Pfizer's medicines, and it paid for some of his research.

Dr. Reuben is on an indefinite leave from his post at Baystate, the hospital said. He no longer holds an appointment as a professor at Tufts University's medical school, according to the university.

"We analyzed it and made figures and graphs, and sent it back, and wrote papers, and everything seemed fine," said Dr. Kroin of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "If someone has a good reputation, has 10 years of papers and has a very high position within their medical school, generally you assume they have a lot of integrity."

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