More Unethics in Medical Research: Is There Prevention?
From BBC News October 7 2005:
Drugs similar to aspirin reduce the risk of mouth cancer but possibly at a cost to the heart, say researchers.
The Norwegian-led team looked at the cancer protection offered by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs among nearly 1,000 heavy smokers.
Those drugs cut the risk of oral cancer by more than half - the same as stopping smoking.
However, they also appeared to double the risk of death due to heart disease, the Lancet journal reports.
From the BBC News today January 16, 2006:
Cancer study patients 'made up'
A cancer expert invented patients for a study which concluded taking common painkillers could protect against oral cancer, it is alleged.
Dr Jon Sudbo reportedly made up patients and case histories for the study published in highly-respected Lancet medical journal last October. Dr Sudbo has not commented publicly on the claims.
But a spokeswoman for Oslo's Norwegian Radium Hospital, where he works, said he had admitted falsifying data.
Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, is attempting to have the paper retracted from the journal. He defends the peer-review process of journals in their goal to prevent poorly designed studies from being published. However, this process is not designed to identify fabricated research. He says "Just as in society you cannot always prevent crime, in science you cannot always prevent fabrication."
One wonders about the motivational forces present in research which lead to unethical behavior in the falsifying of experiments. Is there anything society can do to prevent such behavior? ..Maurice
There is an excellent article in the August 15 2005 issue of the Boston Globe which describes the controversy as to the results of so-called peer-review of medical research papers. “..after a study that sent reverberations through the medical profession by finding that almost one-third of top research articles have been either contradicted or seriously questioned, some specialists are calling for radical changes in the system.”
The question is how could so many poorly documented studies be accepted for publication in major journals that were later found to be erroneous and yet had been under the scrutiny of peer-review. It seems, according to the article, that there is a lack of public transparency in the peer-review process. Those who were reviewing the peer-review process itself “… found that it was almost impossible to discover what had happened in the vetting process, since peer reviewers are unpaid, anonymous, and unaccountable. Moreover, their reviews are kept confidential, making it impossible to know the parameters of the reviews.”
If the goal of peer-review is to prevent poorly designed studies from being published, granted that this process is not designed to identify fabricated research, then it appears that something is defective in whatever the peer reviewers are trying to accomplish. As the Boston Globe article suggests, there are those who think the whole system of vetting for publication should be overhauled. ..Maurice.