Public Health Demands Reproducible Medical Research

Academic research as well as clinical scientific trials need to be reproducible to be credible. With many more errors in these areas today, the Scientific Exchange, which is based in California, has announced a new program that will fact-check experimental findings.

Called the Reproducibility Initiative, a board of 10 scientists will review scientific findings and validate the deserving ones. This will improve the trustworthiness of reports and clinical papers. The Science Exchange is putting together this initiative along with two scientific publishing websites for an online marketplace for scientists.

There is a general lack of incentives and opportunities for validation. The percentage of studies that cannot be reproduced is a staggering 70 per cent. This is a huge waste of time and money, because the results are more often than not inaccurate.

In order to create medications that are successful and to be viable for funding opportunities, it is essential to validate study results. This means a third-party who can reproduce the research and clinical trials is vital for overall medical research. It is generally considered that the incentives are easily available for publishing sensational results that may or may not be accurate.

An example of this is the case of Dr. Scott Reuben who, in 2010, falsified 21 research papers. Several of these papers publicized the benefits of Vioxx, a pain killer that has since been the cause of thousands of lawsuits. Reuben may have received thousands of dollars in grant money for research that was never done.

Another example is a Kansas doctor who, in 2011, joined with a researcher to conspire with Schering-Plough, a subsidiary of Merck, to falsify data on research programs. Takeda pharmaceuticals was also accused in 2011 of falsifying data about the type 2 diabetes drug Actos to make it appear safe. This year, Cetero Research, based in North Carolina, forged thousands of documents of clinical trials for several drug companies in order to get federal approval. They are now continuing their work under another name, the PRACS Institute.

C. Glenn Begley, who is a former head of cancer research, has tried to replicate 53 experiments that are important for the treatment of cancer. He could not duplicate the findings of 47 of the experiments. Begley believed in these cases the cause was poor experiment procedures and sloppy reporting rather than outright fraud as was the case with Vioxx. Fraud accounts for a small part of the overall failures.

For the experiments they are able to replicate, the Reproducibility Initiative aims to give a seal of approval to the original team.