Top pain scientist fabricated data in studies, hospital says
March 11, 2009
The Associated Press reports that 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favorable results from the use of painkillers like Pfizer Inc.''s Bextra and Merck & Co.''s Vioxx -- both since withdrawn -- as well as Pfizer''s Celebrex and Lyrica.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 painkiller. 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. The retractions, first reported in Anesthesiology News, have caused anesthesiologists to reconsider the use of certain practices adopted as a result of Dr. Reuben''s research, doctors said. 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. Last month, the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia retracted 10 of Dr. Reuben''s studies and posted a list of the 11 published in other journals on its Web site. The journal Anesthesiology said it has retracted three of Dr. Reuben''s articles. The retracted studies aren''t expected to affect the drugs'' regulatory status because Dr. Reuben''s studies weren''t part of the packages that manufacturers submitted to the FDA or European authorities. Dr. Reuben had been a paid speaker on behalf of Pfizer''s medicines, and it paid for some of his research. Wyeth said it isn''t aware of any financial relationship between the company and Dr. Reuben.