Dr. Kate Scannell compares disgraced financier Bernie Madoff to pharmaceutical shill, Scott S. Reuben, MD:
In an analogous manner, the story of Dr. Scott S. Reuben tells the tale of one man who, in pursuit of personal gain, harmed huge segments of our nation’s health care system. That he could get away with falsifying pharmaceutical research and medical publications on such a massive scale over many years also tells a larger story about our nation’s medical research industrial complex.
That complex — the enormous, poorly regulated, financially incestuous and opaque system that generates and disseminates the medical information we use to determine health care for patients — is similarly structured to allow individuals and privileged industries to profit through backroom deals.
A few days ago, it was widely reported that Reuben, an anesthesiologist in Massachusetts and a faculty member of Tufts’ medical school, had falsified at least 21 of his 72 published research studies. He simply made them up.
Many of those fictional studies promoted the use of painkillers — like Pfizer’s Celebrex or Merck’s Vioxx — during orthopedic surgeries, highlighting yet another layer of his disgrace. Those drugs, known collectively as “COX-2″ drugs, have been suspected of causing severe side effects like heart attacks and strokes, and Vioxx was finally withdrawn from the market in 2004.
As was reported in Scientific American, Reuben’s work tried to encourage surgeons to abandon use of older and less expensive anti-inflammatory painkillers in favor of newer and more expensive ones called “COX-2″ drugs.
In addition to faking research, downplaying COX-2 side effects, and jacking up the cost of medical care, Reuben also profited from financial arrangements with Merck and Pfizer. Those relationships are hard to confirm in his publications, but you find evidence of them in odd places. For example, in a conference brochure (Reuben lectured widely to disseminate his “research”) you discover that he not only received “grants” from Merck and Pfizer, but that he was also on their for-hire speaker’s bureau.
The rest of Dr. Scannell’s commentary is found at Inside Bay Area.