Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Research Fraud Continues to Rear Its Ugly Head at UAB

For the third time this year, a faculty member at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has been found to have committed scientific research fraud.

This comes on the heels of a massive research-funding fraud lawsuit that UAB settled with the federal government for $3.4 million in 2005. A whistleblower in that case, a forensic accountant, estimated the actual fraud to be about $600 million.

The latest case also comes on the heels of reports that multiple UAB physicians are involved in a physical-therapy company (with Homewood attorney Rob Riley, son of Governor Bob Riley), which faces charges in federal court that it has practiced health-care fraud.

All of the incidents of fraud either started or continued under the leadership of current UAB President Carol Garrison. The most recent incident comes roughly three weeks after UAB announced that Dr. Robert Rich, dean of the School of Medicine, was stepping down.

We speculated at the time that something serious probably was behind Rich's decision. Today's news definitely is serious--but it is far from the only major problem that exists in UAB's biomedical enterprise.

H.M. Krishna Murthy, who worked in the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering, is the latest UAB researcher to have problems with fraud. The Birmingham News reports that UAB has asked that nine of Murthy's research papers be retracted because his experimental findings appear to be false or fabricated. The Journal of Biological Chemistry already has retracted one of Murthy's papers.

In July, UAB researchers Juan R. Contreras and Judith M. Thomas were barred from receiving grants and contracts after falsifying results from animal studies.

Contreras and Thomas no longer work at UAB, and Murthy left the university in February 2009.


Cirze said...

Good for you.

I feel fortunate to be able to read your reporting.

If there were a taskforce in every state I believe we would uncover the same situation going on everywhere brought to us by the un-regulating of the noble Rethuglicans.

May they all be investigated and tried for their crimes.


Anonymous said...

This may not be a case of research fraud but more likely a fraud of trying to frame a researcher for being bold enough to confront his superiors who were trying to misappropriate funds. Without any forensic findings or other researchers demonstrating a different result consistently, any allegations remain inconclusive and of suspicious motive.

Anonymous said...

Murthy is not being framed. It was obvious to the everyone in his field of research two years ago that one of these papers was fraudulent, and that the deception was almost certainly deliberate. It would have been obvious to everyone else too, but a certain journal handled the matter incompetently and let him dodge the accusation. Other researchers have demonstrated different results consistently, thousands of times, spanning decades. It would simply be impossible to attain such results by mistake even once, let alone repeatedly.

I don't know anything about the situation at UAB so I can't comment on misappropriation of funds, but there was more than enough evidence to fire him. The only mystery is why it's taking so long for these papers and structures to be retracted.

Anonymous said...

Not only universities but the FDA in conert with the drug companies as well. The next time you get cancer and have to buy those intolerably expensive , for instance a $30,000.00 a month drug, or have to pay $100.00 for a bottle of medicine that costs five cents to make, you realize that not only are you getting ripped off through a similarly corrupt situation, but also that it all ties together and ends up causing you to pay those high taxes because Medicaid and Medicare have to eat these costs.

Anonymous said...