A federal judge sentenced anesthesiologist Dr. Scott Reuben of Springfield, Mass., to six months in prison for fabricating pain management drug test results.
Dr. Reuben was famous in the anesthesiology community for his research on pain management, specifically multimodal analgesia involving the use of two or more types of drugs to relieve post-operatic pain. Reuben’s fame turned into infamy when investigators at Springfield’s Baystate Medical Center discovered that he published 21 papers over 13 years based on completely or partly fabricated data. Reuben never conducted the clinical trials and in some cases invented patients.
Some of Reuben’s work included clinical research on painkillers such as Pfizer Inc.’s (NYSE:PFE) Bextra, Celebrex and Lyrica drugs, research the company funded. Reuben also submitted proposals for research funding to Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK) for its controversial Vioxx drug.
All of Reuben’s 21 published studies were peer-reviewed, making the fraud case even more extraordinary. It’s the largest research fraud in the annals of anesthesia, Anesthesia and Analgesia editor Dr. Steven Shafer told the Boston Globe in March 2009. The scientific journal had to print a retraction notice (PDF) citing all 21 articles for which Reuben faked results. The names of other researchers on the articles were forged, according to Anesthesiology News.
Reuben pleaded guilty to engaging in healthcare fraud Feb. 22, 2010. His prison time will be followed by three years of supervised release. Judge Michael Ponsor of the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts also ordered Reuben to pay a $5,000 fine and restitution of $361,932, in addition to forfeiting $50,000, according to a press release.
Reuben graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo medical school in 1985 and did his anesthesiology residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Until the initial allegations arose, he also held a teaching appointment at Tufts University.