Statins without prescription website paper retracted after company says it requires scripts, threatens suit
The authors of a paper on websites that sell cholesterol-lowering statin medications without prescriptions have retracted it. The move followed the threat of a lawsuit against the journal by a company included in the study that says it never dispenses sans a script.
Here’s the notice:
The following article from Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, “Direct to consumer Internet advertising of statins: an assessment of safety”, by Bethan Williams and David Brown, published online on 2nd February 2012 on Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) and in Volume 21, Issue 4, pages 352–365, April 2012, has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor-in-Chief, and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to the inability to verify the accuracy of the data in Appendix 1.
Appendix 1 is a list of 184 websites that allegedly sell statins without a prescription. But the journal’s editor, Brian Strom, of the University of Pennsylvania, tells Retraction Watch:
A lawyer for a company specified in the appendix threatened a suit, claiming they never dispensed meds without a prescription. We told the author we would back them, but we needed to see proof the website ever said that. The authors had no evidence to back up their statement.
Corresponding author David Brown, of the UK’s University of Portsmouth, tells us:
We conducted our study in good faith; however, on publication, it was brought to our attention by one of the editors that the producers of one of the websites listed in the Appendix to the paper had indicated that the site was listed in error as offering statins for sale without a prescription.
We did not keep the original screen-dumps of websites at the time of our study (19th November – 23rd December 2010) and as we could not verify the inclusion of the website, we immediately agreed to retract the paper in accordance with the editor’s wishes.
I must stress that this was an honest error on our part; there never was any intention to mislead the journal or its readership. This stance was accepted by the journal editor.
Hat tip: Clare Francis