A former employee in the public health division of the Oregon Health Authority committed misconduct in 56 case reports about Clostridium difficile infections in Klamath County, Oregon, as well as in a manuscript submitted to JAMA Internal Medicine and a published report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in March, 2012.
Ryan Asherin, previously a Surveillance Officer and Principal Investigator at the OHA, was a busy man. According to the details from a report by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, Asherin:
falsified and/or fabricated fifty-six (56) case report forms (CRFs) while acquiring data on the incidence of Clostridium difficile infections in Klamath County, Oregon. Specifically, the Respondent (1) fabricated responses to multiple questions on the CRFs for patient demographic data, patient health information, and Clostridium difficile infection data, including the diagnoses of toxic megacolon and ileus and the performance of a colectomy, with no evidence in patient medical records to support the responses; and (2) falsified the CRFs by omitting data on the CRFs that clearly were included in patient medical records.
In addition, Asherin was found guilty of “falsifying and/or fabricating data” that appeared in the research record of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a manuscript sent to JAMA Internal Medicine in January 2013, and a paper about C. diff that appeared in the CDC’s MMWR journal. The paper — about a potentially deadly infection that’s a common feature of healthcare settings — has been cited 75 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
Some of these messy data also made their way into 2012 presentations to the CDC and the 11th Biennial Congress of the Anaerobe Society, according to the ORI report.
The OHA told us Asherin no longer works there:
Ryan Asherin is no longer employed by the Oregon Health Authority as of August 12, 2011.
A spokesperson said the OHA will have a longer statement “shortly,” which we will post as an update.
As part of the settlement agreement, Asherin agreed to have his research supervised, among other stipulations, for two years starting May 12, 2015.
Update 1:15 p.m. eastern 5/29/15: We heard back from Redberg, who offered this statement:
Like most peer reviewed journals, our Instructions to Authors state that submissions to JAMA Internal Medicine are confidential, and we can neither confirm nor deny whether an author has submitted a manuscript for our review. Since we cannot discuss whether a manuscript was submitted, we certainly cannot discuss why it might have been rejected. We trust you understand and appreciate the rationale for this editorial policy.
Update 7:29 p.m. eastern 5/29/15: The OHA sent us a more detailed statement about the case:
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is committed to gathering and presenting accurate data to inform public health policy and decisions. Upon auditing the data collected by former employee, Ryan Asherin, OHA staff found errors and subsequently launched a vigorous internal investigation. We then reported those investigation findings to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity. We continue to meticulously monitor our agency’s data collection, analysis, and reporting to ensure the deepest integrity. Ryan Asherin is no longer employed by the Oregon Health Authority as of August 12, 2011.
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