Make it a double: Alcohol treatment study pulled for duplication
European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has retracted a 2003 paper on the treatment of alcoholism for a vague “copyright violation.” But the reason appears to be that the article was largely identical to a 2002 report from one of the authors and other colleagues.
The offending paper, “Acamprosate and its efficacy in treating alcohol dependent adolescents,” appeared in June 2003 and has been cited 51 times, according to Google Scholar. The authors were Helmut Niederhofer and Wolfgang Staffen, of the Christian Doppler-Klinik, in Salzburg.
According to the rather uninformative notice:
This article has been retracted due to copyright violation.
That’s not much to go on, but a little Googling? turned up a 2003 article in Alcohol and Alcoholism with a “stop me if you’ve heard this one before” ring to it. Here’s the abstract from the ECAP article:
About 50 % of adult alcoholic patients relapse within 3 months of treatment. Previous studies have suggested that acamprosate may help to prevent such relapse. The aim of our study was to assess the efficacy and safety of long-term acamprosate treatment in alcohol dependence of adolescents. Methods: In this, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we recruited 26 patients, aged 16–19 years, with chronic or episodic alcohol dependence. Patients were randomly allocated treatment with acamprosate (1332 mg daily) or placebo for 90 days. Patients were assessed on the day treatment started and on days 30, and 90 by interview, self report, questionnaire, and laboratory screening. Findings: 13 acamprosate-treated and 13 placebo-treated patients completed the treatment phase: of those withdrawn, 11 (1 vs 6) relapsed, 5 (3 vs 2) refused to continue treatment, 3 (1 vs 2) had concurrent illness, and 2 (1 vs 1) had adverse side-effects. At the end of treatment, 7 acamprosate treated and 2 placebo-treated patients had been continuously abstinent (p = 0.0076). Mean cumulative abstinence duration was significantly greater in the acamprosate group than in the placebo group (79.8 [SD 37.5] vs 32.8 [19.0] days; p = 0.012).Interpretation: Acamprosate is an effective and well-tolerated pharmacological adjunct to psychosocial treatment programmes.
And here’s the abstract from the AA paper:
Aims: About 50% of alcoholic patients relapse within 3 months of treatment. Previous studies have suggested that cyanamide may help to prevent such relapse. The aim of our study was to assess the efficacy and safety of long-term cyanamide treatment in alcohol dependence of adolescents. Methods: In this, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we recruited 26 patients, aged 16–19 years, with chronic (frequent and regular) or episodic (frequent, but irregular) alcohol dependence. Patients were randomly allocated treatment with cyanamide (200 mg daily) or a placebo for 90 days. Patients were assessed on the day the treatment was started, and on days 30 and 90, by interview, self-report, questionnaire and laboratory screening. Patients were classified as abstinent, relapsing or non-attending. Time to first treatment failure (relapse or non-attendance) was the primary outcome measure. Results: The cyanamide (n = 13) and placebo (n = 13) groups were well matched in terms of baseline demographic and alcohol-related variables. Mean cumulative abstinence duration was significantly greater in the cyanamide group than in the placebo group. Apart from occasional diarrhoea, there was no difference in side effects between groups. Conclusions: Cyanamide seems to be an effective and well tolerated pharmacological adjunct to psychosocial and behavioural treatment programmes for the treatment of some adolescent alcohol-dependent patients. Because of reported hepatotoxic, haematological and dermatological side effects, patients should be observed continuously by experienced clinicians. Further studies are necessary to prove the efficacy of cyanamide in adolescents.
Beyond the immediate similarity of the text, of course, is the curious overlap between the study design — same number of subjects, same demographics — and the different drug used in each trial. That raises a bright red flag, we’d think.
We emailed the editor of ECAP and will update this post if we hear back.
Update, 8 p.m. Eastern, 11/8/12: Editor Jan Buitelaar tells us:
There was indeed the copyright violation as indicated.We have informed the various institutions where the first authors did work about this issue but as a journal, we did not ourselves (inquire about) issues of scientific integrity.