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    Unprecedented Research Fraud Shocks Medical Community

    By Jennifer Huddleston, staff writer     

    A customary internal audit of research summaries conducted in 2008 by Hal Jensen, M.D., chief academic officer at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, found that two studies submitted by Scott S. Reuben, M.D., an anesthesiologist at Baystate, had not received approval by the facility’s institutional review board (IRB).

    While rumors about Reuben’s research have made their way through anesthesiology circles in the past year, it was a subsequent internal investigation by Baystate, a private, non-profit facility affiliated with Tufts University, which revealed what experts are calling one of the largest known cases of academic research fraud.

    “It turned out there was not IRB approval because the data were partially or completely fabricated,” Jenson said.
    [1]

    According to details first reported in Anesthesiology News, Reuben is accused of publishing forgery and making up his results in at least 21 articles over the past 13 years. The articles were printed in such publications as Anesthesiology, Anesthesia and Analgesia and the Journal of Clinical Anesthesia and have since been retracted. At least two of Reuben’s co-authors have accused him of putting their names on his research papers without their consent.

    Reuben, who is currently on medical leave from his position as director of the acute pain service at Baystate, has been considered a leader in the field of multimodal analgesia, defined as the practice of combining multiple forms of pain relief in order to manage pain and encourage faster recovery from surgery.

    Reuben is a former member of Pfizer Inc.’s speakers’ bureau, and his research has provided the basis for current practices regarding multimodal analgesia, including pain treatments before and after surgery that combined two of Pfizer’s major products—Celebrex and Lyrica.

    While it doesn’t appear that Pfizer played a role in Reuben’s alleged deception, his research did promote a way of providing post-operative pain relief that centered on the use of both Celebrex and Lyrica.

    “As part of such research, we count on independent researchers to be truthful and motivated by a desire to advance care for patients,” Pfizer spokeswoman Sally Beatty said in a statement. “It’s very disappointing to learn about Dr. Scott Reuben’s alleged actions.”
    [2]

    Baystate spokeswoman Jane Albert said she didn’t believe that Pfizer granted Reuben large amounts of money for his research. An article published by New London, Connecticut-based newspaper The Day reported that Pfizer declined to disclose the amount of money it granted Reuben or reveal when that money was granted.
    [3]

    According to advocates, given the extent of the fraud in this case, multimodal analgesia now needs further research and evidence to support it.

    “We are left with a large hole in our understanding of this field,” said Steven L. Shafer, M.D., editor of Anesthesia and Analgesia. “It will take a while for science and practice to sort this out.”
    [4]

    Shafer also said that this case has led Anesthesia and Analgesia to change its policy regarding publication to now require at least two researchers to verify the original research data in any study in which two or more authors are involved.
    [5]

    Albert said the fraud investigation contains “no allegations concerning any patient care. This was focused on academic integrity.”
    [6]

    Baystate does not plan on pursuing any criminal charges against Reuben and it’s believed that none of Reuben’s co-authors knew about the fraud. Reuben has been barred from any research and educational activities involving Baystate or Tufts University for at least 10 years.

    Reuben was employed by Springfield Anesthesia Service, a private practice of about 50 doctors that contract with Baystate to work in the hospital.

    “We’re all very upset about how he strung us along,” said Steven Dunn, M.D., one of the doctors at Springfield Anesthesia and a co-author on one of Rueben’s studies. “Our group paid him extra money and gave him non-clinical time. We all worked long hours in the OR so that he could do his research.” The study Dunn co-authored with Reuben has not been challenged because Dunn collected that data himself.
    [7]

    “It’s disheartening for us that some guy would do this,” Dunn said.
    [8]

    While it would seem that Reuben’s alleged deception would be caught in the peer review system, Dunn explained it’s not so.

    “You can see how easy it was to get away with. If someone comes to you and says, ‘Here are data on seven patients,’ how do you say, ‘No, I didn’t see you treat those patients’? You assume that a physician would have the integrity not to lie in this way.”
    [9]

    Reuben graduated from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo School of Medicine in 1985 and began working at Baystate in 1991.


    [1] “Routine Audit Uncovered Reuben Fraud.” Anesthesiology News, Volume 35:3. March 2009.
    [2] Howard, Lee. “Former Member of Pfizer Speaker Bureau Accused of Research Fraud.” The Day. March 10, 2009.
    [3]  Ibid.
    [4] “Routine Audit Uncovered Reuben Fraud.” Anesthesiology News, Volume 35:3. March 2009.
    [5] Howard, Lee. “Former Member of Pfizer Speaker Bureau Accused of Research Fraud.” The Day. March 10, 2009.
    [6] “Fraud Case Rocks Anesthesiology Community.” Anesthesiology News , Volume 35:3. March 2009.
    [7] “Routine Audit Uncovered Reuben Fraud.” Anesthesiology News, Volume 35:3. March 2009.
    [8]  Ibid.
    [9]  Ibid.



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