Fraud in Scientific Research is On the Rise Say Journal Editors at AAOS

Misconduct in scientific research dates back to Ptolemy in 2nd Century A.D. who declared that he had recorded measurements - which he couldn't possibly have - to show that the earth was at the center of all celestial bodies, including the sun.

But Ptolemy's grand declaration didn't exactly harm anyone. That isn't the case with misconduct in medical research, however.

In fact, orthopedics experts and journal editors at the 81st annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in New Orleans Wednesday said they are concerned by the fact that misconduct in medical research has been on the rise in recent years.

In 2012, there were 2047 retracted biomedical articles that represented a 10-fold increase from the number of retracted articles in 1975, said Dr. Joseph Buckwalter,co-editor of the Journal of Orthpaedic Research, in a discussion Tuesday.

Dr. Regis O'Keefe, an orthopedic surgeon in Rochester, N.Y., echoed Tolo's thoughts and shared this slide below that shows a similar spike over the past several decades. In recent years, outright or suspected fraud is the major driver of retracted scientific publications. 

The above reflects the situation in the U.S. But globally too, shady research - be it  because of fraud/suspected fraud, error, plagiarism or duplicate publication - is a problem. However, U.S. appears to play an outsize role in at least one of the causes that lead articles to be withdrawn.

In fact, 40% of retracted scientific literature due to fraud or suspected fraud comes from the U.S., O'Keefe said. 

It's not just the scientific community propelled by personal ambition or personal gain who are willing to bend the rules. The companies sponsoring those clinical studies that tend to portray their products in generous light are sometimes to blame as well especially with respect to how they market approved drugs and devices.

The Department of Justice has corporate integrity agreements with most of the top drugmakers after they agreed to settle civil or criminal charges of heatlhcare fraud. Device makers, including Medtronic, have also had to pony up for running afoul of the False Claims Act. In fiscal 2013, the DOJ collected $2.6 billion from the healthcare industry because of fraud of various civil violations. 

-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI


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