by John A. Baur, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT

A record number of retractions are occurring in research due to falsified or fake research.
One lie that many Americans have heard over the years is that resveratrol in red wine is heart healthy. Dipak Das, PhD, a researcher from University of Connecticut Health Center, studied and published articles suggesting that 2 glasses of red wine a night is needed to maintain heart health. In 2012, the University of Connecticut announced that a review board found Dr. Das was guilty of 145 counts of fabrication or falsification of data and at least twenty of his research papers have been retracted.

A parallel study performed at Harvard University found that one would actually need to consume 2000 glasses of red wine a day to ingest enough resveratrol to have a health benefit. Furthermore, scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studied 800 men and women ages 65 and older whose diets were natural high in resveratrol and the study found there was no link between resveratrol levels and the rates of heart disease, cancer, and death (JAMA Internal Medicine).

Another fake and fraudulent article published in 1998 in the Lancet Journal showed an association between Autism and vaccination. This article was eventually retracted, however, currently in some states approximately 4% of children are not vaccinated due to fear of autism.

Vioxx, an anti-inflammatory medication thought to replace the need of people suffering from osteoarthritis from taking large doses of Ibuprofen, is another example of research being falsified. Researchers in the study of Vioxx were well aware of the cardiac challenges associated with taking Vioxx. They decided to selectively remove individuals’ cardiac abnormalities from their data and selectively  hired FDA employees as consultants to prevent negative information from being released to the public.

Duke University’s pharmacokinetics and cancer researcher Anil Potti, MD published that he had found a connection between a person’s genes and a pharmacokinetics cocktail. He built research around his reported findings and received 4 grants (2 of them Federal grants) for his research. However, parallel research conducted at MD Anderson Cancer Center showed that Dr. Potti’s work was all falsified. In 2015 Dr. Potti was found guilty, by U.S. Health and Human Services Department investigators, of engaging in misconduct while researching treatments in human cancer patients. Ultimately Duke University reached a settlement agreement with the federal health agency, patients, and the estates of patients who participated in those medical trials. Dr. Potti was allowed to continue research work, under supervision, until 2020, and Duke University currently has to go through additional steps since being caught for falsifying research on this occasion, and with other researchers.

These research retractions, from falsified and fraudulent studies, are never fully reported to the public or the medical community, and the long-term impact on society is significant.
Most published research findings have little pertinence whatsoever to clinical practice. With over 3 million biomedical publications occurring every year we are now in a race to identify who has a grasp of the best research and who doesn’t.

At Physical Therapy First we work hard as a practice to keep pace with the greatest and latest research, including retracted falsified studies, in order to glide our patients to optimal health and physical therapy outcomes. We also work hard to disseminate the best available medical information to our patients, residents, fellows and students.