Boldt’s data were fake in 1996 paper

Ludwigshafen Hospital, via Wikimedia
Ludwigshafen Hospital, via Wikimedia

Update, 4 p.m. EST, 10/29/14: As a commenter points out, we didn’t quite get this one right. The Boldt paper that has been retracted was not previously retracted for lack of IRB approval. Rather, it was a heretofore unretracted article, from 1996, which German investigators have determined contained faked data. We’ve made edits below using strikethroughs, and have changed the headline to better reflect the content. We apologize for the errors.

We’ve commented before on the fact that we’ve noticed there’s often more to retractions whose stated reason is lack of institutional review board (IRB) approval. We can understand editors’ inclination to act as quickly as possible to issue a retraction, the scientific publishing equivalent of jailing Al Capone for tax evasion. But we appreciate it even more when said editors return to the scene of the crime, as it were, when new important details come out.

Case in point: Anesthesia & Analgesia has amended its retraction of a 2009 1996 study by Joachim Boldt — who with nearly 90 retractions once held the record in that department — based on findings that the data in that paper were fabricated.

The article was titled “Cardiopulmonary bypass priming using a high dose of a balanced hydroxyethyl starch versus an albumin-based priming strategy,” “The effects of albumin versus hydroxyethyl starch solution on cardiorespiratory and circulatory variables in critically ill patient.”  had previously been retracted because Boldt had failed to obtain adequate ethics approval for the research. But now comes this, According to the retraction notice from editor in chief Steven Shafer:

In 2009, Joachim Boldt published an article in Anesthesia & Analgesia comparing albumin and hydroxyethyl starch priming cardiopulmonary bypass.1 The study was retracted in December 2010 for lack of IRB approval.2 A subsequent investigation by Klinikum Ludwigshafen determined that the study was fabricated.3

Based on the finding by Landesärztekammer Rheinland-Pfalz, the State Medical Association of Rheinland-Pfalz that the studies were conducted without IRB approval, Anesthesia & Analgesia retracted 22 papers by Dr. Boldt in 2011 for unethical conduct of research.4 A subsequent investigation by Klinikum Ludwigshafen found that Boldt’s studies “failed to meet required standards,” included “false data” in at least 10 studies, and found “clear evidence of procedural irregularities and research misconduct on the part of Dr. Joachim Boldt.”

In light of these concerns, Justus-Liebig Universität Giessen undertook an investigation of Dr. Boldt’s work from that institution. This investigation cast doubt on the veracity of Boldt J, Heesen M, Müller M, Pabsdorf M, Hempelmann G. The effects of albumin versus hydroxyethyl starch solution on cardiorespiratory and circulatory variables in critically ill patient. Anesth Analg 1996;83:254–61. Based on evidence of data manipulation reported by Justus-Liebig Universität Giessen to the journal, this paper is hereby retracted.

9 thoughts on “Boldt’s data were fake in 1996 paper”

    1. At the end of the day, what is the easiest way to prove misconduct? You go for the records that are not kept in the lab of the person under suspicion (as usually they tend to be fairly poorly kept, especially if they are conducting misconduct) and have to be legally kept. So you go for the IRB records, records of animal ordering (if animal work was involved) and the finances (to complete the Al capone analogy). If these reveal a problem then it is very clear cut.

  1. 90 retractions isn’t a record? I guess I missed something – who (single) individual now holds the record of most retractions?

  2. I think there is some confusion here… the 2009 paper was already retracted previously for lack of IRB approval (and then subsequently found to have fabricated data. The new news is that another paper (Boldt J, Heesen M, Müller M, Pabsdorf M, Hempelmann G. The effects of albumin versus hydroxyethyl starch solution on cardiorespi- ratory and circulatory variables in critically ill patient. Anesth Analg 1996;83:254–61) has been retracted due to data manipulation.

    This is actually an important piece of news because there has been debate about what to do with data from trials published prior to 1999. These papers were never reviewed by Landesärztekammer Rheinland-Pfalz (Shafer SL. Notice of retraction. Anesth Analg 2010;111:1567).

  3. This is only one of the three recently retracted papers before 1999.
    There was one also from 1996 because of issues with the veracity of data Boldt J Influence of different volume therapy regimens on regulators of the circulation in the critically ILL BJA 1996 ,77,480-487
    and because of lack of IRB approval Boldt J et al.Volume therapy in the critically ILL :is there a difference? Int Care Med 1998,24,28-36
    And already 2 years ago Wilkes et al described a double publication from Boldt from 1990 ,based on Herold Dissertation,where the two impacted papers have not been investigated by Giessen University and they have not been retracted yet. Who will pick up the challenge to clean up the rest of his mess?

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