Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal — and, if you are Yoshitaka Fujii, retraction.
We have seen retraction notices in two journals concerning papers by Fujii, the Japanese anesthesiologist who, according to an international group of editors, may ultimately lose some 190 publications to research fraud.
Otoloaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery last month had the following notice for a 2011 article titled “Antiemetic Efficacy of Low-Dose Midazolam in Patients Undergoing Thyroidectomy,” by Fujii and an M. Ikatura (who has not been accused of wrongdoing, as far as we know):
The article has been retracted as a result of notice received from the author, Yoshitaka Fujii, M.D., that the study described in the article was undertaken without the approval of an institutional ethics committee. The Editor-in-Chief and Publisher have therefore determined that the article failed to meet the ethical standards required by the Journal. Additionally, Toho University Faculty of Medicine, where Dr. Fujii was employed until February 29, 2012, issued a statement in March 2012 regarding its investigation of Dr. Fujii, finding that the study referenced in the article, as well as other studies referenced by Dr. Fujii in his published articles, were conducted without the approval of any ethics committee, and therefore “did not conform to the global standard of ethics for clinical studies.”
Additionally, the Publisher has been informed by Dr. Michiyo Itakura and Dr. Ken Takasaki, President of Ushiku Aiwa General Hospital, that Dr. Itakura did not participate in the authorship of the article. The Publisher has also been informed by Ushiku Aiwa General Hospital that Yoshitaka Fujii is not affiliated with the hospital. At the time of the article’s publication, Dr. Fujii was affiliated with the Toho University School of Medicine.
That was followed by a retraction in Surgical Endoscopy of a 2010 paper by the same two authors, “Reduction of postoperative nausea, vomiting, and analgesic requirements with dexamethasone for patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy.” Curiously, the journal does not seem to have marked the study, which has been cited just once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, with a retraction stamp. Fujii has published another article dexamethasone in the journal, as well as a review article in 2011 on nausea and vomiting after laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Neither of those appears to have been retracted so far.
We emailed the editor of Surgical Endoscopy to find out more and will update this post when we hear back. Both now-retracted papers were included on a list of nine papers “put into doubt” that Tojo University released in March.
We also heard recently from Seetal Dodd, editor-in-chief of Current Drug Safety, which has published a half-dozen review articles by Fujii. Here’s what Dodd had to say:
As an update, there are 6 papers by Dr Fujii published in Current Drug Safety. They are all review papers however Dr Fujii has heavily self-cited his research papers in these review papers. Dr Fujii’s doubtful research is currently under investigation. I was contacted on the 7th May by Prof. Ken Takamatsu, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Toho University, Tokyo, Japan, who has informed me about the progress of these investigations.
We have decided that if the research papers by Dr Fujii are retracted then we will quickly retract all six of the review articles by Dr Fujii published in Current Drug Safety.
If his research papers are discredited we believe that it will be necessary to also retract his review articles in our journal so that other authors do not unknowingly cite his discredited works by citing these review papers. However, I do not believe our journal should pre-empt the current investigations into Dr Fujii’s work by retracting the review articles prior to the original research being retracted.
Meanwhile, as readers of this blog may recall, when we first reported on the Fujii case we quoted an insider as saying that a near-miss in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia more than a decade ago may have encouraged Fujii to submit his papers to journals outside the anesthesia community, where his name might be unfamiliar. Neither of the two titles involved in the most recent retractions is an anesthesia publication.
Hat tip: Clare Francis