Fraud is so rampant in medical research that the default position should be to assume a study has been faked unless it has been proven to be true, a former editor of one of the world’s leading medical journals has said.
Some medical studies are entirely fiction, with the participants and the results being made up, and even the authors didn’t know they had supposedly written it, said Richard Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
“The time may have come to stop assuming that research actually happened and is honestly reported and assume that the research is fraudulent until there is some evidence to support it having happened and been honestly reported,” he wrote in a blog on the BMJ’s website.
The Cochrane Collaboration, which independently assesses medical studies, has helped uncover the extent of fraud.Ian Roberts, a professor of epidemiology and a Cochrane investigator, investigated a report that had concluded that mannitol, a diuretic, halved deaths from head injuries.But the trials on which the conclusion had been based had never happened, and the lead authors were associated with medical institutions that didn’t exist.Despite pointing out the fraud, the journal that published the original papers hasn’t retracted any of them.
They’re not alone.Just 0.04 percent of studies have ever been retracted by journals.