Massachusetts Doctor Faces Federal Charges Over Falsified Studies

Dr. Scott S. Reuben, former chief of acute pain at the Bay State Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts was just charged in federal court for falsifying medical research studies the United States Attorneys Office District of Massachusetts just announced. Among other items, Reuben falsified studies published in medical journals on pain management. The US Attorneys Office noted that the details contained in the Information are allegations and Reuben is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

As we’ve written before, these studies had a great deal of influence on the practice of medicine. Because of Reuben’s “research,” it had become routine for doctors to combine the use of painkillers like <"">Celebrex and <"">Lyrica for patients undergoing common procedures such as knee and hip replacements. Reuben even had the ear of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and wrote the agency asking it not to restrict the use of many of the painkillers he studied. He often cited his data to make his case, according to a prior Wall Street Journal piece.

Many of the studies Reuben worked on involved drugs that have very serious side effects. Like many antidepressants, the labeling of Effexor warns it has been linked to suicides in young people and children. Both Celebrex and Vioxx have been linked to heart attacks and strokes, and Vioxx was actually recalled in 2006 because of these problems. Not surprisingly, Reuben has strong ties with the pharmaceutical industry. According to the Journal, he had been a paid speaker on behalf of Pfizer—the maker of Lyrica and Celebrex—and it paid for some of his research. Wyeth provided $10,000 in grant money to Reuben from 2001 to 2003, the Journal said. Merck also funded some of Reuben’s work.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Mark Dragonetti, Resident Agent in Charge of the FDA—Office of Criminal Investigations; Susan J. Waddell, Special Agent in Charge of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General; and Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Boston Field Division, announced that Reuben was charged in an Information with one count of health care fraud. The Information alleges Reuben solicited and obtained research grants from pharmaceutical companies to perform research studies on pain management often associated with various surgical procedures, but that he did not actually perform the studies. Instead, he made up patient data, submitted it to medical journals, and caused bogus articles to appear in a number of medical journals, said the US Attorneys Office.

We previously wrote the Reuben was accused of falsifying 21 drug studies. Medical journals were asked to retract studies involving Vioxx, Celebrex, Lyrica, and other drugs; the studies were published between 1996 and 2008. According to The Wall Street Journal, the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia retracted 10 studies. It also posted a list of 11 others published in other journals on its Web site. The journal Anesthesiology said it has retracted three of Reuben’s articles.

If convicted, Reuben faces up to 10 years imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The case was investigated by the FDA—Office of Criminal Investigations, Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Sternberg of Ortiz’s Health Care Fraud Unit.

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