Whoa. Each new and more incredible case of scientific misconduct should no longer be able to shock, but still my jaw drops in disbelief.
According to Anesthesiology News,
Scott S. Reuben, MD, of Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., a pioneer in the area of multimodal analgesia, is said to have fabricated his results in at least 21, and perhaps many more, articles dating back to 1996. The confirmed articles were published in Anesthesiology, Anesthesia and Analgesia, the Journal of Clinical Anesthesia and other titles, which have retracted the papers or will soon do so …
In addition to allegedly falsifying data, Dr. Reuben seems to have committed publishing forgery. Evan Ekman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Columbia, S.C., said his name appeared as a co-author on at least two of the retracted papers, despite his having had no hand in the manuscripts.
“Interestingly, when you look at Scott’s output over the last 15 years, he never had a negative study,” said one colleague, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “In fact, they were all very robust results—where others had failed to show much difference. I just don’t understand why anyone would do this or how anyone could pull this off for so long.”
A cornerstone of Dr. Reuben’s approach has been the use of the selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor celecoxib (Celebrex) and the neuropathic pain agent pregabalin (Lyrica), both manufactured by Pfizer. Dr. Reuben has received research grants from the company and is a member of its speakers’ bureau. However, a source told Anesthesiology News that Pfizer recently alerted its speakers to remove any reference to Dr. Reuben’s data from their presentations. Pfizer was unable to comment by the time this article went to press. The company has not been accused of wrongdoing in the matter.
Jacques Chelly, MD, PhD, MBA, director of the Division of Regional Anesthesia and Acute Interventional Perioperative Pain at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said that the Reuben episode has left multimodal analgesia “in shambles concerning many of the drugs we use”—particularly celecoxib and pregabalin. “The big chunk of what people have based their protocol on is gone.”
As he has no listings in CRISP dating back to 1990, ORI will have no need to investigate Reuben, but this raises the question about who does provide oversight regarding the responsible conduct of research for industry-funded studies such as these. JAMA and other journals have begun to do so by requiring the data be submitted for independent analysis, but specialty journals such as these likely could not manage such an undertaking for every industry trial.
So is this the FDA’s responsibility? They have 3 separate offices that investigate misconduct (drugs, biologics, medical devices), but no quick option on their home page to report suspected research fraud (versus other types of criminal activity and adverse reactions). Or is this another case/cause for Senator Grassley?