Partly as an antidote to the previous, depressing post, and partly because it is so deserving of exposure, I now present—verbatim except for names and other ‘identifiers’—a recent email exchange between one of my colleagues and a correspondent. It has nothing to do with SBM. My colleague, known to his friends as T-Bone, is the reluctant owner of a vacation house in Florida. He must rent it as much as possible, since no one is willing to buy it. He gets frequent queries from potential renters, but usually not of the sort illustrated below. T-Bone is a very funny person. This exchange reminds me of the pieces that Steve Martin did for the back page of the New Yorker a few years ago.
From: Carlos Buffett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: T-Bone Seidler
Sent: Friday, January 23, 2009 11:12 AM
Subject: HouseHere inquiry about LandSilence 2468 from Carlos Buff
Dear T-Bone Seidler,
Carlos Buff has sent the following inquiry about property number 2468 in LandSilence. To reply to this inquiry, simply call the phone number contained in the inquiry or reply to this e-mail.
Last week the story broke that Scott Reuben, an anesthesiologist and clinical researcher at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, had falsified data in at least 21 publications over a period of at least 12 years—making it one of the most enduring examples of scientific fraud in memory. Almost all of Reuben’s papers had reported innovative methods for providing post-operative pain relief (analgesia); many of them involved ‘multimodal’ regimens for painful orthopedic procedures such as spinal fusions and total knee replacements. Recent papers reported regimens that included celecoxib (Celebrex) and pregabalin (Lyrica), both made by Pfizer. Much of Reuben’s research had been funded by Pfizer, and Reuben has been a member of the Pfizer speaker’s bureau (that information is included because the reader would otherwise wonder, but there is no indication that Pfizer has been intentionally involved in Reuben’s fraud).
I will not discuss this case in detail; look for a more comprehensive piece on SBM next week. Rather, I present it now to offer a local example of how such a breach of trust affects those who rely on clinical research to inform their care of patients.