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Science in the Profit Interest

Another black eye for the so-called “ethical pharmaceutical” business. In what is being called “the biggest research fraud in medical history,” a member of Pfizer’s “speaker bureau” has pled guilty to fabricating dozens of drug studies. Dr. Scott Reuben, working on a $75,000 grant from Pfizer produced a research study on their drug Celebrex. Naturally, the drug was found to be remarkably effective against pain. Well, except there were no patients in the study. It was completely fabricated.

This isn’t a first for the good (for business) doctor. The peer-reviewed (and shame on the reviewers) journal Anesthesia and Analesia had to retract 10 papers authored by Reuben. Another 21 Reuben articles were apparently also fabricated according to London’s The Day. Reuben received nearly a half million from Pfizer, which I guess he has to give back, and possibly pay a $250,000 fine on top of that. Maybe even jail time.

But for Pfizer and the other companies that got rave reviews from “ethical research,” nothing. Bextra and Vioxx were also beneficiaries of Reuben’s fairy tale “research.” But these drug companies are not treated as conspirators. They’re “victims” of this fraud. Coverage in The Day fills in the details.

Reuben’s studies, five of which were funded by Pfizer, had bolstered claims about the post-surgery effectiveness of such painkillers as Pfizer’s Celebrex and Merck’s Vioxx.

Reuben’s attorneys said a bipolar disorder with “alternating periods of mania and depression fueled his misconduct.”

Oh poor guy. I’m sure we can all understand how depression could make someone want to fake dozens of scientific articles. No, we can’t. That’s a BS defense.

Meanwhile, these bogus “research studies” have been used to bolster claims of effectiveness for Celebrex and other drugs, as the public is fed the fiction that we have the best research in the world and the safest and most effective drugs. Yes, we have the best research results money can buy, and the best “approving for dollars” system too.

This corporate medical/scientific corruption hurts us all, and the media is only too happy to trot out the results of these “studies” while lapping up billions in pharma advertising.

And it’s not like this is new. Before this “biggest drug research fraud case in history,” there was the former biggest in 1989 when NJ physician Robert Fogari pled guilty to taking $2 million from drug companies for investigational new drug research that he never conducted. Fogari “investigated” new drugs for nine drug companies including Ciba-Geigy, Johnson & Johnson, Warner-Lambert, Pfizer, Upjohn, Syntex, and Merck, Sharp & Dohme. Fogari had his employees list persons who were not in the study and make up patients. He failed to do the urine, stool and blood tests and forged signatures of radiologists and others. The doctor also failed to report the deaths of two
patients in the “study” in order to “maintain a favorable impression” with the drug companies who hired him. At least the deaths were presumably not caused by the drugs they didn’t take as a part of the study they weren’t in that never took place.

Fogari admits he did not conduct any legitimate research during the whole eight year period.

A year earlier, Constantine Kostas admitted that of the 85 subjects in his clinical trial of Cipro, only 15 had actually been given Cipro. I suppose it hardly matters, since Kostas also faked the results of lab tests and examinations that never took place.

All of this is especially irksome to those of us who have endured Big Pharma’s war on herbs and supplements. How many of the so-called “research studies” on herbs funded by big pharma are also bogus? It’s easy to find such “studies” in which the patients chosen were inappropriate, or the protocol designed in ways that appear destined to fail. Indeed, “failure” of an alternative medicine is exactly what the drug companies want to see.

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