Surgeon falsifies research on soldiers injured in Iraq war

Update: May 22, 2009
Dr Kuklo has taken a leave of absence from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Update: May 19, 2009
US Senator Charles Grassley has opened an inquiry into Dr T Kuklo and his financial relations with Medtronic.

It is depressing to see medical doctors, who are also paid consultants to drug companies falsifying research data. From a NYTimes article Army Disputes Doctor’s Claim in Study of Injured.

A former Army, Orthopaedic surgeon, operating at the reputed Walter Reed Army Medical Center, created a ghost population of soldiers wounded in Iraq. Then fabricated data on their treatment with rhBMP-2 (recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein – 2). The doctor forged signatures of co-authors and published the manuscript in a reputed peer-reviewed journal (Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery – Br Edition). The surgeon was a paid consultant for Medtronic, which also makes and markets the rhBMP-2.

Once published, co-workers at Walter Reed realized that the hospital just did not have that many patients with that injury. An investigation ensued and ultimately the manuscript was officially withdrawn by the journal earlier in March! The ultimate shame for the surgeon and researcher!

There are many guidelines which prevent doctors from doing clinical trials using products from companies, for which they are consultants. But surgeons consistently flaunt these rules. They argue that somehow their ethical standards are higher and they are not easily tempted by huge sums of consulting fees. Obviously they have not heard of the ‘agency effect’ drummed in business schools. Companies know better and continue to shower their largesse on reputed surgeons who can help drum up sales.

Harvard Medical School has a strict guidelines on Faculty Policies on Integrity in Science,” and a clear Conflict of Interest Disclosure; but as has been exposed several times in the NYTimes, doctors just “omit” to put in the correct figures. There is a new federal law, which will soon mandate corporations to publicly disclose recipients of their consulting relationships.

Surprisingly, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the leading Orthopaedic professional society and community surgeons have not done anything to censure or reprimand this behavior from one of their own. According to the NY Times article, Dr Kuklo still gave a talk at the recent AAOS meeting in Feb 2009 and he continues to remain a paid consultant for Medtronic.

Despite, this very unethical and egregious behaviour, Dr Kuklo continues to be a faculty Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Washington University in St Louis, and shamelessly, still flaunts the research manuscript which was officially withdrawn (see paper # 30 in this list of publications).

4 thoughts on “Surgeon falsifies research on soldiers injured in Iraq war

Add yours

  1. I am also for small government, at least for community matters. But I fear that in the US we have divided ourselves into “don’t teach values” vs. “teach only our (rather rigid) values and we argue over flags and Christmas displays instead of understanding the need to inculcate values of compassion and honesty about important things and responsibility to oneself and the larger community, etc. which are fairly universal. There will always be people who are “bad guys,” but I think we need most people to be relatively “good guys.” For this we need better education.

  2. Breaking of trust for financial gain underlies many problems in our country, I fear. We’ve done some real damage to the ethical system which we need to keep us together as a society.

    1. Exactly; and surprisingly, many doctors don’t see the connection between accepting consulting $$$ and how it may subconsciously affect judgement. Sad!

      While I’m for small government, this is a good example where the community has not been able to police themselves and thus needs government intervention.

      and Thank you for your comment and links!

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