Page 6 - Pakistan Link - December 22, 2017
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P6  –  PAKISTAN LINK – DECEMBER  22, 2017                                                                                             OPINION
              n  By Dr Syed Amir                    Scientists Not above Cheating                                               is strong evidence that the company
                 Bethesda, MD                                                                                                   knew  about the  harmful  effects  of
                                                                                                                                the drug, as they had already been
              ot so long ago, any scien-  pressure them to generate outside                                                     uncovered by its own scientists. Yet,
              tific paper published in   funds to support their pay and re-                                                     apparently, it chose to suppress the
        Na reputable journal was      search. Consequently, for a young                                                         information. The company had to
        regarded as sacrosanct, beyond   faculty member winning a grant                                                         battle several law suits worth bil-
                    any suspicion that   becomes  critical,  making  a  differ-                                                 lions of dollars filed by patients or
                    the reported results   ence between having a prestigious                                                    relatives of patients who suffered the
                    were  either  manip-  academic job and joining the unem-                                                    ill-effects.
                    ulated or concocted   ployment line.                                                                            Much like Avandia, several
                    by the authors. The   In academia, great premium is                                                         other drugs have been implicated
                    only  criticism  that   placed  on  publishing  results,  espe-                                             in heart attacks and strokes. Vioxx,
                      scientists  per-  cially in well-recognized journals.                                                     prescribed for reducing the pain of
                    mitted was differ-  Publications  help  in  securing  re-                                                   Arthritis was introduced in 1999 by
        ing interpretations of the research   search grants and attaining tenured                                               Merck Pharmaceuticals with great
        findings, without questioning   faculty appointments. However, the                                                      fanfare. Its sale soon reached 2.5 bil-
        their veracity. In the last decade,   acceptance rate of manuscripts sub-                                               lion annually. Yet, within four years,
        however, the implicit trust that   mitted to highly rated journals is                                                   it was withdrawn voluntarily by the
        scientists erstwhile placed in the   low. In an effort to boost chances for                                             company as convincing evidence
        data of their colleagues has been   acceptance, a few scientists succumb                                                surfaced that its long-term use was
        undermined by numerous allega-  to the ignoble temptation of tamper-                                                    associated with increased risk of
        tions of misconduct and data fab-  ing with their results, making them                                                  both heart attack and stroke. Never-
        rication. What has changed and   look more impressive than they ac-                                                     theless, an estimated sixty-thousand
        what prompted this erosion of   tually are. In extreme cases, some   of Sciences, noted that two-thirds of   One of the most archetypal   deaths have been attributed directly
        distrust?                     fabricate results outright, inventing   the publications withdrawn in bio-  example is the case of the popular   to  its use worldwide.  Avandia had
            Today, science has become a   data without conducting any experi-  medical sciences were done because   diabetes drug, Rosiglitazone (trade   been hailed as a more effective med-
        major enterprise and the competi-  ments. Such doctoring of the data   of deceitful data, not some innocent,   name: Avandia), marketed by Glax-  icine than any of its competitors.
        tion for shrinking funds to support   has a pernicious effect, as others at-  inadvertent errors.   oSmithKline.  The drug is very effec-  Incredibly, the data on which these
        it is at an all-time high. In this coun-  tempting to replicate them can waste   Whereas, publication of decep-  tive  in  controlling  type-2  diabetes;   claims were based according to re-
        try, most biomedical research is   months and precious resources. The   tive scientific findings is unethical,   its sale a few years ago crossed the   ports were not legitimate, and had
        supported by the National Institutes   falsified data are ultimately exposed   the  manipulation  of  data to  make   three billion dollar mark. However,   been made up by scientists, some
        of Health (NIH), a Federal Govern-  and the authors forced to retract                                                   employed others not directly em-
        ment body, with a budget close to   their papers, essentially spelling the   In academia, great premium is placed on publishing   ployed but paid for by Merck.
        $31  billion  a  year,  larger  than  that   end of their careers.  results, especially in well-recognized journals.        Two other well-known drugs,
        of many countries. Yet, the NIH   While fraud in science has al-                                                        Celebrex and Bextra, also prescribed
        can scarcely support 10 to 15% of   ways existed to some degree, since   Publications help in securing research grants and   for  relief  of inflammation  and  ar-
        meritorious research proposals it re-  1975 there has been a tenfold in-  attaining tenured faculty appointments        thritic pain, and marketed by Pfizer,
        ceives from scientists. The situation   crease in the rate of retracted pa-                                             saw their worldwide sale climbing to
        is especially bad for young investi-  pers. According to the British paper   money,  especially  by  concealing  or   after it came into wider use, inde-  billions of dollars in 2004. However,
        gators in the early stages of their ca-  Guardian, there were only three cas-  distorting information that directly   pendent researchers at Cleveland   Bextra was found to cause serious
        reers, who are struggling to establish   es of data falsification out of 309,800   impacts  human  health  and  wellbe-  Clinic,  specializing  in  heart  dis-  harmful effects. Pfizer, as a result,
        themselves. Even the so-called Ivy   publications reported during the   ing, is much more serious business.    eases, discovered that it raised the   withdrew it in 2005.  In 2009, the
        Leagues universities, such as Har-  entire year of 1976, whereas in 2007   Over the past decades, compelling   incidence of  heart  attacks  by 43%   US Department of Justice fined the
        vard, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and   the number climbed up to 83 retrac-  evidence has emerged to suggest   and deaths 63%. Based on these   company $2.3 billion for wrongdo-
        Princeton, although flushed with   tions. Similarly, a study published   that some international pharma-  findings, the use of the drug was re-  ing in the promotion of Bextra and
        money, are loathe to pay salaries to   in the respected scientific journal,   ceutical companies have indulged in   stricted in the US in 2010, and was   four other drugs.
        their academic faculty. Instead, they   Proceedings of the National Academy   just such immoral practices.  banned completely in Europe. There   SCIENTISTS, P28

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