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Scientific fraud published in reputable medical journals has soared more than 1700 percent since 2004, says report

Science fraud

(NaturalNews) The alleged gold standard of the double-blind, peer-reviewed scientific study is not looking so gold these days, especially after a recent report in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) unearthed some of the scandalous secrets hiding in plain sight in modern science. Such secrets, say investigators, include rampant fraud being peddled as sound science in supposedly reputable, peer-reviewed medical journals.

According to data compiled from Thomson Reuters Web of Science, an index of more than 11,000 peer-reviewed journals from around the world, the number of scientific studies retracted for error or fraud from scientific journals worldwide has skyrocketed more than 15-fold since 2001. And many of these studies contained blatant deception and lies published as scientific fact, a growing trend that many experts worry is tainting the once-respected field of modern science.

Worse, an analysis published in the Journal of Medical Ethics found that retractions specifically involving fraud increased by more than 1700 percent between 2004 and 2009, which exceeded the rate increase of simple error-related retractions. More than a quarter of retracted medicine and biology studies published between 2000 and 2010 involved fraud, according to analyst Grant Steen.

Beyond simply thwarting the trust of millions of doctors and patients across the globe, the continued exposure of scientific fraud to the light of day also shows that millions of patients are being put at serious risk as well. After all, when a doctor reviews a corrupt, journal-published study and adopts its findings as fact, his patients end up bearing the damaging consequences, which can include serious injury or death.

Examples of serious fraud in peer-reviewed medical studies

According to the WSJ, scientific and medical journals retracted 339 published studies just last year, up from 139 in 2006. Many of these studies involved questionable or outright fabricated data, and countless millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded grants had been used to conduct and publish them.

In one case, the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic discovered that published data on an unconventional new way to treat cancer using the immune system had been fabricated. As a result, 17 papers published in nine different research journals had to be retracted (http://classic.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57449/).

Another study about a blood pressure drug that had been published by German anesthesiologist Joachim Boldt was recently exposed as fraudulent as well. In this case, a reader-prompted investigation revealed "serious irregularities" in Boldt's data, which has prompted the retraction of a shocking 89 different studies published in 18 research journals (http://www.newswise.com).

In 2010, Dr. Scott Reuben, a former member of drug giant Pfizer's speakers bureau, pleaded guilty to publishing fraudulent research about the drug Celebrex in a number of different medical journals. It was revealed that Reuben had invented a fake study in which not a single patient was actually enrolled (https://www.naturalnews.com/028194_Scott_Reuben_research_fraud.html).

More recently, shoddy cancer research conducted by Sheng Wang, an assistant professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) Cancer Research Center, and published in the journals Molecular Endocrinology and Oncogene was determined to be fraudulent and was later retracted from both journals (http://the-scientist.com/2011/08/11/cancer-researcher-fabricated-data/).

Then there is the ongoing issue of drug companies paying consultants to pose as academics or medical doctors and to forge studies that make dangerous drugs appear safe and effective. This fraudulent "ghostwriting" scheme is more common than most people think, and it has been used to illicitly promote synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs like Wyeth's (now Pfizer) Prempro and high-risk antidepressants like Merck's Vioxx (https://www.naturalnews.com/027582_Merck_Vioxx.html).

Much medical research today is driven by special interests, greed

As comforting a sentiment as it might be to pretend that medical research as a whole is devoted to researching the facts and discovering the unbiased truth, the sad reality is that much of it is actually driven by a collective desire for power, fame, and money -- and ultimately by the special interests (biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, primarily) with the funds and faculty to make this a reality for those in the research community.

As a result, much of the scientific research peddled to the masses today is rooted in a predetermined outcome that serves a specific agenda, rather than an untainted quest for the truth. In order to make any money for their work, or to attain respectable and esteemed status, many researchers have to jump through the proper hoops, which can involve manipulating research objectives to promote a company's drug, for instance.

And obviously things have gone awry in the peer-review and publishing process as well, as once-respected journals increasingly stumble upon fraud in the papers they publish -- except they often do so many, many years after such papers were first published.

This is why it is crucial that medical journals establish better standards for transparency, including requiring that authors of all published papers fully disclose their sources of funding and any potential conflicts of interest, for example. Until this occurs, the supposed "gold standard" of modern science will continue to erode into oblivion, and patients receiving treatments based on pseudo-scientific bunk will continue to face unnecessary injury and death.

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