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 in 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reported favorable results from the use of painkillers like Pfizer Inc.'s Bextra and Merck & Co.'s Vioxx — both since withdrawn — as well as Pfizer's Celebrex and Lyrica. Reuben's research work also claimed positive findings for Wyeth's antidepressant Effexor XR as a pain killer. 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.
"Dr. Reuben deeply regrets that this happened," said the doctor's attorney, Ingrid Martin. "Dr. Reuben cooperated fully with the peer review committee. There were extenuating circumstances that the committee fairly and justly considered." She declined to explain the extenuating circumstances. Reuben didn't respond to requests for comment sent through Martin and left at his former office.
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.
Reuben had been a paid speaker on behalf of Pfizer's medicines, and it paid for some of his research. "It is very disappointing to learn about Dr. Scott Reuben's alleged actions," Pfizer said in a statement. "When we decided to support Dr. Reuben's research, he worked for a credible academic medical center and appeared to be a reputable investigator."
Wyeth said it isn't aware of any financial relationship between the company and Reuben.
An FDA spokeswoman said late Tuesday she wasn't aware of the matter. Merck had no immediate comment.
Hal Jenson, the chief academic officer at Baystate Medical, said a routine audit last spring flagged discrepancies in Reuben's work. That led to a larger investigation in which Reuben cooperated, Jenson said. "The conclusions are not in dispute," he added.