Friday, April 14, 2006

New UK Research Integrity Panel Formed in Response to Blumsohn - Procter and Gamble - University of Sheffield Case

A new UK Panel for Research Integrity in Health and Biomedical Sciences has just been launched, per the Guardian. The panel will support the self-regulation of institutions, but will also "support whistleblowers alleging research fraud." The inspiration for the panel partially came from the "example of Aubrey Blumsohn.... "

We had posted a while back, and then more recently here, about the story of Dr Aubrey Blumsohn's dispute with Proctor and Gamble (P&G) and the University of Sheffield in the UK. In summary, Blumsohn and Professor Richard Eastell had done clinical research on the risedronate (Actonel), sponsored by P&G, the drug's manufacturer. P&G refused Blumsohn access to the original data from the study he was ostensibly running, and hired a ghost-writer to write abstracts in his name. Blumsohn protested to Eastell, who advised him not to make waves because P&G "is a good source of income" for the university. When protests to other university officials produced no results, Blumsohn told the story to the press, whereupon the university suspended him.

While announcing the new panel, Professor Michael Farthing, the Principal of St. Georges Medical School of the University of Londong, noted that Blumsohn was a "very sophisticated whistleblower who could not find an ear. Instead of taking it seriously, [the university] suspended him." Farthing also noted that it was "a great embarrassment in the UK" that there was no organization to "audit research misconduct." Furthermore, Professor Sir Ian Kennedy stated, "The UK's research community needs to demonstrate its integrity in the conduct of research. The poor practice and misconduct of a few undermine public confidence and can put volunteers and patients at risk."

Well said. This sounds like a step, albeit perhaps belated, forward. Maybe Dr Blumsohn will yet have a chance to appeal to this panel. Unfortunately, it was constituted too late to prevent the TGN 1412 calamity.

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