A Medical Madoff: Anesthesiologist Faked Data in 21 Studies

A pioneering anesthesiologist has been implicated in a massive research fraud that has altered the way millions of patients are treated for pain during and after orthopedic surgeries

By Brendan Borrell
Scientific America, March 10, 2009

Over the past 12 years, anesthesiologist Scott Reuben revolutionized the way physicians provide pain relief to patients undergoing orthopedic surgery for everything from torn ligaments to worn-out hips. Now, the profession is in shambles after an investigation revealed that at least 21 of Reuben’s papers were pure fiction, and that the pain drugs he touted in them may have slowed postoperative healing.

“We are talking about millions of patients worldwide, where postoperative pain management has been affected by the research findings of Dr. Reuben,” says Steven Shafer, editor in chief of the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia, which published 10 of Reuben’s fraudulent papers.

Paul White, another editor at the journal, estimates that Reuben’s studies led to the sale of billions of dollars worth of the potentially dangerous drugs known as COX2 inhibitors, Pfizer’s Celebrex (celecoxib) and Merck’s Vioxx (rofecoxib), for applications whose therapeutic benefits are now in question. Reuben was a member of Pfizer’s speaker’s bureau and received five independent research grants from the company. The editors do not believe patients were significantly harmed by the short-term use of these COX2 inhibitors for pain management but they say it’s possible the therapy may have prolonged recovery periods. More…

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