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Originally published September 19 2013

Antipsychotic drug researchers forced to retract study after switching 'before' and 'after' data

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A Norwegian study that claims to have observed significant brain changes in mental patients who switched from so-called "first generation" antipsychotic drugs to second generation varieties has been retracted from the peer-reviewed journal BMC Research Notes. As announced by Retraction Watch, the foiled paper was pulled after it was discovered that researchers had literally switched their data sets and come to completely opposite and false conclusions.

The case study involved one 53-year-old male patient with serious mental illness whose brain activation and motor activity was monitored while on both a first generation antipsychotic drug known as perphenazine (Trilafon) and the more popularly known second generation antipsychotic drug risperidone (Risperdal). The aim, of course, was to see how each of the drugs affected the patient and how transitioning from one to the other might affect symptom management.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the team observed a mixed bag of changes in brain chemistry and physical function in the patient, with some apparent improvements and some detriments. Of particular note was an alleged observance that switching from perphenazine to risperidone reduced variability in the patient, which was seen as a benefit, while at the same time decreasing overall motor function. From this, the authors drew up a conclusion based on their findings.

Except for the fact that what the team observed for risperidone was actually what it observed for perphanazine, and vice versa: insert major oops. In other words, an influential scientific journal has once again mistakenly published a junk study that in this case was not simply riddled with errors, but is actually one giant error by definition.

"The authors have retracted this article as the fMRI data presented in the case report are incorrect," states the official retraction notice. "The activation data reported for session 1 are the activation data for session 2 and vice versa. As a result the discussion and conclusions of the case report are based on the wrong set of data and are no longer valid."

The original published abstract for this now-retracted study can be seen here:

Study retractions on the rise, claims study (ironically)

It would be one thing if this were an isolated incidence of insufferable oversight, something that almost never occurs under the watch of all those "gold standard" scientists who are constantly bemoaning what they see as a lack of credible evidence that natural cures, for instance, actually work. But flawed studies are published all the time and increasingly so according to a new review of retraction trends.

Published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, this new analysis of retraction trend data reveals a roughly ten-fold increase in paper retractions since the early 2000s, despite only a 44 percent increase in the number of published papers during this same time. None of this bodes well for the future of scientific research, of course, nor does it in any way reinforce the already crumbling public trust in the peer-review and publishing process.

"Science has very much turned into a high-stakes competitive business," writes Ashutosh Jogalekar in a piece for Scientific American about this endemic rise in paper retractions, which evidently are mostly due to fraud rather than unanticipated error. "It should go without saying that these kinds of pressures are going to do nothing to dissuade researchers from tweaking a few experimental parameters here, adding a data point to the graph there; all for the sake of getting their papers into high-impact journals, ensuring tenure, awards and fame."

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