Researcher sentenced for faking drug tests
A former member of Pfizer Inc.'s speakers' bureau who was accused of perpetrating one of the most extensive research frauds in history has been given a six-month federal prison sentence.
Dr. Scott S. Reuben, a prolific pain researcher at Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., who during a 12-year span is believed to have faked at least 21 studies, will also have to return more than $360,000 to drug firms, including Pfizer, that gave him money for research. Pfizer will receive more than $300,000 in the deal that Reuben reached with federal prosecutors as he pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of healthcare fraud.
Other fines and penalties in the case will require Reuben to repay nearly half a million dollars to various parties.
Reuben, whose lawyers contended he suffers from bipolar disorder, had faced up to 10 years in prison. He will receive three years of supervised release when he leaves jail.
Reuben's studies, five of which were funded by Pfizer, had bolstered claims about the post-surgery effectiveness of such painkillers as Pfizer's Celebrex and Merck & Co.'s Vioxx. Vioxx has since been pulled from the market because of safety concerns.
Purported studies published in well-regarded medical journals specializing in anesthesia have since been retracted. Reuben's fraud has caused several journals to revise their standards for accepting research, and has led commentators to question the sometimes-cozy relationships between study authors and the drug industry.
"Reuben was showered with cash by Big Pharma," Jim Edwards, a pharmaceutical blogger at bnet.com, said in a post Friday.
Reuben's studies had been seen as pioneering when 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.
At the same time, Reuben "was a regular on the medical lecturing circuit," according to court documents, and "had become a well known figure in the anesthesia and pain management medical communities."
It is not known how much Reuben made as a member of Pfizer's speakers' bureau.
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