The Massachusetts anesthesiologist accused of cooking up data for use in trials of pain medications has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges in a deal with federal prosecutors.
Scott Reuben, who had been among the nation’s most respected investigators on the subject, had been charged with one count of healthcare fraud.
Reuben’s trouble began last year, when an internal audit conducted by Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., revealed he fabricated data for 21 studies he had conducted during the last 15 years.
The criminal charge had focused on one of these, a trial of Celebrex as part of a “multimodal” pain regimen for knee surgery. The study showed the drug was effective and was published in 2007 in Anesthesia & Analgesia.
“In fact,” the prosecution wrote in a court filing, “Reuben had not enrolled any patients into that study, and the results reported…to Anesthesia & Analgesia were wholly made up by Reuben .”
Had he not copped a plea, Reuben could have spent 10 years behind bars and been fined $250,000. The plea convinced prosecutors to recommend lighter penalties.
After Baystate spilled the beans, journals that had published his tainted articles retracted them.
Baystate terminated its contract with Reuben last spring. At the same time, he reportedly agreed to suspend his practice and was stripped of a professorship at Tufts.
Several widely accepted medical beliefs need to be re-examined in light of the scandal. Topping the list are the effect of COX-2 inhibitors on bone healing and the role of multimodal analgesic regimens in managing chronic pain.
With respect to the former, Reuben’s studies suggested the drugs had no effect on bone fusion, a finding that was contrary to the results of several animal studies.