Former Pfizer representative charged with health care fraud

Dr. Scott S. Reuben, a former member of Pfizer Inc.’s speakers’ bureau accused last year of perpetrating one of the biggest research frauds in medical history, was charged today in a federal court in Boston with falsifying medical research studies.

Reuben, formerly chief of acute pain at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz accused Reuben of accepting a $75,000 grant from Pfizer to research the effectiveness of pain medication Celebrex for a 2005 study in which no patients were actually enrolled. Prosecutors allege that Reuben made up the data, which he subsequently published in the medical journal "Anesthesia & Analgesia."

The data supported the conclusion that Celebrex was effective in helping post-operative patients who had received a particular type of knee surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament. "Anesthesia & Analgesia" later had to retract 10 papers written by Reuben, and medical experts at the time said at least 21 journal articles by the anesthesiologist appeared to be fabricated.

Reuben’s studies had been considered pioneering at the time they were published. His data had supported the use of two of Pfizer’s major products — Celebrex and Lyrica — in combination to treat certain types of post-operative pain.

Pfizer said it had supported five of Reuben’s research initiatives. Pfizer, which declined at the time to reveal how much it paid Reuben over the years to be part of its speakers’ bureau, said the company played no part in the fraud.

Last March, Reuben was dismissed from his position at Baystate Medical Center after an audit revealed he had been inventing data for as many as 13 years.

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