Thursday, May 14, 2009

Misconduct roundup 13 May 09

Here is a roundup of a few misconduct issues of the day

Kuklo fraud, Medtronic Inc., and Washington University

The New York Times today reports on some dubious behavior involving a former surgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Dr. Timothy R. Kuklo, falsified data involving a bone-growth product (Infuse produced by Medtronic Inc.). Amongst other things he forged the signatures of four Walter Reed doctors on the article before submitting it last year to a British medical journal, falsely claiming them as co-authors. The journal has retracted the article.

Medtronic is under fire on several other grounds (including, apparently, paying doctors to use Infuse). However they so far deny funding "this particular study" (they don't deny funding Kuklo).

But, Kuklo is now an associate professor at the Washington University Medical school in St. Louis. Per the usual scenario, Washington University School of Medicine have done nothing at all, and have declined to comment.

Something going on at Sequenom

Two anonymous correspondents alerted me to "something going on at a company called Sequenom". They write in obscure terms that "this company claims almost 99 percent specificity and sensitivity for a year and now says it was all mishandled by four employees".

A quick search on Google reveals that Sequenom's product is a potentially better test for Down's syndrome based on maternal blood sampling. After a massive rise, their stock has taken a dive over the past few days as investors take legal action against them for making "materially false and misleading statements regarding the clinical performance of the Company's developmental Down syndrome screening test". The company issued this press release on 29 April where they talk of "employee mishandling of R&D test data and results".

If anyone has any secret inside information about scientific deception here, let me know.

This is interesting for two reasons. First, investors very rarely care about scientific deception except when the link between deception and profits is very short-term. I think that is because they often don't understand what they are losing. Second, deception involving diagnostic products gets far less attention than it deserves given its importance. With the entanglement of the pharmaceutical industry in so called personalized medicine (and in therapeutic monitoring) this is an area to watch closely.

The rise and fall of a physics fraudster

In her new book Plastic Fantastic (2009, Palgrave Macmillan), Eugenie Samuel Reich chronicles how Jan Hendrik Schön shook the scientific world. A summary of the book is here (hat-tip Sarah Askew).

[Comment: This is a classic case of scientific misconduct. Unfortunately some commentators on scientific fraud try hard to create the misimpression that fraud in science is a rare anomaly. These commentators invariably cite this case and several other classic cases, while ignoring many far more troubling cases that don't fit the stereotype of the rare rogue male scientist acting alone.]

Earlier|Later|Main Page


Tacman said...

There are other problems at Washington University Medical school in St. Louis. This is not the only case of scientific fraud they have in the closet.

Cole Goins said...

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization that I work for, just published a post with further insight into Kuklo's ties with Medtronic: According to our data, Medtronic paid for over $13,000 worth of trips for Kuklo between 2001-2006. Full story here:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, this is wildly off-topic.

Given current stories about corruption in Westminster, your blog entry for 7/07/2008 "Slip Slidin' Away - Scientific integrity and the rot in the UK Government", seems more important than ever.

At the time you said:

"I'll leave a detailed discussion of the entanglement between the labour government and pharmaceutical scientific fraud for another day. "

Just wondered if that day will arrive soon?

Best regards and glad to see you back.

Tacman said...

You want to investigate the name Douglas Dean, previously of Washington