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Confessions of a research faker

"At the base of our involvement in research lies the trust of American people and the integrity of the scientific exercise." -- Al Gore

Man, this clinical research data suppression and manipulation thing just won't stop. Here's another one:

    On the night of his 12th wedding anniversary, Andrew Friedman was terrified.

    This brilliant surgeon and researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School feared that he was about to lose everything -- his career, his family, the life he'd built -- because his boss was coming closer and closer to the truth: For the past three years, Friedman had been faking -- actually making up -- data in some of the respected, peer-reviewed studies he had published in top medical journals.

    "It is difficult for me to describe the degree of panic and irrational thought that I was going through," he would later tell an inquiry panel at Harvard.

    On this night, March 13, 1995, he had been ordered in writing by his department chair to clear up what appeared to be suspicious data.

    But Friedman didn't clear things up.

    "I did something which was the worst possible thing I could have done,'' he testified.

    He went to the medical record room, and for the next three or four hours he pulled out the permanent medical files of a handful of patients. Then he covered up his lies, scribbling in the information he needed to support his study.

    "I created data. I made it up. I also made up patients that were fictitious,'' he testified.

The guy eventually had a meltdown and confessed all, "retracted his articles, apologized to colleagues and was punished. Today he has resurrected his career, as senior director of clinical research at Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc, a Johnson & Johnson company."

And it happens all the time, according to the article. Sheesh. As CME providers, how much do you need to care about the integrity of the data your activities disseminate? And, more frustratingly, how much is there you can actually do about it?

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