Monday, December 28, 2020

Senator Rand Paul Highlights Fake Heart Attack Study in Government Waste Report


U.S. Senator Rand Paul just released his Festivus Report 2020, describing some $55 billion in “government waste”.  One stand-out example he cites is a fake heart attack study authored by Dharma Bhatta and Stanton Glantz (exposed by me here, here and here). 

Senator Paul mentions that “the NIH’s Office of Research Integrity has a process for banning individuals for ‘research misconduct’.”  Actually, I called for a federal investigation in June 2019 (here), and I laid out all of the evidence in a medical publication (here).  Despite the fact that one of the co-authors of that study retired early this year, an investigation is justified and overdue.

Following is Senator Paul’s verbatim description of the fake study:

“In the summer and fall of 2019, reports began popping up that a new fad among youth, vaping, was hospitalizing people.  According to The New York Times, reporting in August 2019, ‘[M]ore than 215... [patients] with mysterious and life-threatening vaping-related illnesses [were being treated] this summer.’  That same summer, the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) published a bombshell article entitled ‘Electronic Cigarette Use and Myocardial Infarction Among Adults in the US Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health.’  To produce it, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco used three grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), totaling $31,522,244 to fund their work.  There’s just one problem: according to peers, the researchers faked the study!

“Just a month after it was originally published, one researcher at the University of Louisville, Dr. Brad Rodu, caught the flaws and was able to determine that a majority of the sample  population  (just 38 people) had heart attacks years before they started using e-cigarettes - a decade on average - and alleged the UC,  San Francisco researchers conducting the original study faked results.  How was Dr. Rodu able to make this allegation?  The UC-SF team accessed a public repository of information to populate their study, so he simply went back and looked at the original data. 

“Dr.  Rodu, evidence in hand, galvanized prominent tobacco researchers from 16 prestigious institutions around the world, including NYU, Yale, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago, as well as institutions in England, Canada, and Greece, to send a letter  to the publishing journal demanding a review of the article for its veracity.

“Particularly, the cadre of researchers requested JAHA retract its publication of the study given ‘the analysis provided...strongly suggests that the published findings are unreliable and that there is a case to answer.’  According to research guidelines, retraction would be appropriate in the face of evidence of the sort that Dr. Rodu discovered - that is, ‘clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g. data fabrication) or falsification (e.g. image   manipulation) or honest error (e.g. miscalculation or experimental error).’ 

“Ultimately, JAHA conducted the review and retracted the study.

“This is hardly the first case of researchers allegedly faking studies, and I promise it will not be the last.  In fact, the NIH’s Office of Research Integrity has a process for banning individuals   for ‘research misconduct.’  According to ORI, “[R]esearch misconduct is defined as ‘fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in proposing, reviewing research, or in reporting research results,’ excluding honest errors and differences of opinion. 

“So do the UC, San Francisco professors fit this description?

“It’s actually impossible to figure out, at least for now.  As part of the retraction process, JAHA requested the researchers ‘conduct their analysis based on when specific respondents said they started using e-cigarettes.’  Reasonable enough, right?  Well, when faced with that request, the researchers said it ‘would require ongoing access to the PATH Wave 1 survey - a restricted-use   dataset - and...[they] have been unable to access that database.’  In other words, the UC-SF researchers are effectively claiming they cannot back up their claims because their subscription to a database has expired.

“Now, if I were a professional researcher accused of research misconduct, and all I had to do to clear my name was to access a dataset I had already accessed to prove my work, I would do anything I needed to do so I could refute the claims against my work. 

“But maybe that’s just me.”



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