Paper on over-the-counter drugs goes over the line in borrowing text

crraThe journal Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs has retracted a 2012 article on over-the-counter drugs by a trio of pharmacy researchers in India who decided to “reproduce content to a high degree of similarity” from other sources.

Here’s how the retraction notice puts it:

The publisher would like to inform readers the following article has been retracted from publication in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs:

S. K. Dubey, R. D. Ukawala, D. Jha, Prescription to over-the-counter movement and its regulations, Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs, Dec 2012, Vol. 29 (3–4); 57–64

This article has been found to reproduce content to a high degree of similarity from other published works.

The journal contacted the authors to investigate and received responses from R. D. Ukawala and D. Jha on behalf of all authors. It was agreed that several paragraphs of the text in the review article published in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs are word-for-word identical to the text published in other publications. Although references to these articles published were included by the authors, taking intact sentences or paragraphs from other published sources to this high extent is against the Journal’s policy on plagiarism, which can be found on our website:

S. K. Dubey, R. D. Ukawala, D. Jha offer their sincere apologies to the authors and the publishers of the articles and given the circumstances accept the retraction of this paper. Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs published this article in good faith, and on the basis of signed statements of the corresponding author regarding the originality and ethical reliability of their work. The article is withdrawn from all print and electronic editions.

Anna Treadway (Head of Journals Publishing, Informa Healthcare

Now, we’re all for signed statements and other attestations of originality, but we must protest a moment here: Although the paper is no longer available online (that we can see), the abstract is. And it didn’t take us more than about 15 seconds and a few keystrokes in Google to find a virtually verbatim passage from said synopsis. Was a plagiarism check conducted prior to acceptance? We seriously doubt it.

Another red flag was that although the cribbed phrases were in excellent English, much of the abstract is barely intelligible. That ought to have triggered a more careful screening of the manuscript.

2 thoughts on “Paper on over-the-counter drugs goes over the line in borrowing text”

  1. Adam, I enjoyed your “red flag” involving a “barely intelligible” abstract being followed by stolen stuff “in excellent English”.

    An early red flag in the Australian Paradox episode – beyond the lead author operating as the “Guest Editor” of the publishing journal – involved a “3 fold” increase in obesity in Australia discussed in the Abstract (p. 491) morphing into a “~300%” increase (not 200%) in the Conclusions (p. 502).

    I’m not saying that’s a hanging offence. I’m saying that various obvious schoolboy errors are important because they reinforce my claim that no-one competent – authors, independent reviewers or editors – read the paper before it was self-published. Indeed, it’s possible that the lead author did not read her own paper before its self-publication.

    The mystery – given the various official claims of great scrutiny – is how the Australian Paradox paper nevertheless was published full of obvious mistakes: see Sections 2 and 8 in

  2. While it is now difficult to obtain, here is the abstract of the paper in question:

    Prescription to over-the-counter movement and its regulations.

    Ravikumar Ukawala, Sunil Dubey, Diwakar Jha

    Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs 01/2012


    Self-medication can be possible for minor and chronic-recurring illnesses which are well known to patients. Around 200 drugs are approved for over-the-counter (OTC) purposes from the prescription by FDA. Such switches are called Rx to OTC switches. The criteria for switch include a low potential for misuse or abuse, safety, efficacy and effective use. Many substances have successfully switched from Rx to OTC and much are in-line. However, the switch in different countries is different due to differences in traditions, situation for starting, regulatory procedures, political support, and levels of information/education of patients. In 1975, the FDA formalized a process of switching prescription drugs to OTC status by establishing methods, through the individually initiated petition, as a supplement to a new drug application, and through the OTC review process. The OTC sector, while less profitable than the prescription market, is still viewed as being immensely profitable by industries. Switching of drugs from prescription to OTC status provides cost-containment in medico’s expense, supports the self-help movement, and also fulfills market expansion motives. Looking at the present trends it is very likely that more and more medications will fall into the ambit of OTC medication.

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