JAMA retracts second paper by heart researcher

Screen-Shot-2015-10-27-at-10.53.53-AMA heart researcher who fabricated trial participants has notched a second JAMA retraction. The retraction comes at the request of her co-authors, after an investigation by her former employer wasn’t able to confirm that this study was valid.

In September, we learned that Anna Ahimastos, who used to work at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, had “fabricated [records] for trial participants that did not exist” in a JAMA trial for a blood pressure drug, according to principal investigator Bronwyn Kingwell.  That trial was retracted, along with a sub analysis.

An investigation by the institute found problems or sufficient doubt in several more publications. This second JAMA retraction is number 5 for Ahimastos, of 8 total expected.

The paper, “Effect of perindopril on large artery stiffness and aortic root diameter in patients with Marfan syndrome: a randomized controlled trial” has been cited 112 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. It concluded that perindopril, a blood pressure drug, might shrink the arteries of patients with a life-threatening genetic disorder that expands them. But, said the paper, larger clinical trials were needed, and as the retraction note note suggests, the American College of Medical Genetics does not recommend perindopril for the disease.

Here’s the note in full:

We wish to retract the article “Effect of Perindopril on Large Artery Stiffness and Aortic Root Diameter in Patients With Marfan Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” published in the October 3, 2007, issue of JAMA,1 based on inadequate validation of primary data sources and data misrepresentation. An independent review was conducted by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute following an admission of scientific misconduct by the first author (Anna A. Ahimastos, PhD) in relation to the data included in another study2 that has since been retracted.3 This review resulted in our decision to retract this additional article.1 We do not believe that management guidelines for Marfan syndrome have been changed as a result of this small clinical trial.

While clinical governance procedures have been strengthened since publication of this study, the Institute has commenced a review with the purpose to further strengthen current audit practices and to minimize any possible risk of recurrence of such behavior. We were not found to be involved in any research misconduct, but we do acknowledge the responsibility for our authorship of this article and for supervising the overall study and sincerely apologize to the editors, reviewers, and readers of JAMA. We are committed to correcting the public record, notifying relevant stakeholders, and implementing practices to prevent recurrence.

A spokesperson for Baker IDI who has been keeping us in the loop on Ahimastos’s retraction sent us this statement, which will be familiar to readers who have been following the case:

As you are aware, an earlier finding of research misconduct triggered additional investigations into similar studies that the relevant researcher was associated with. These investigations identified irregularities in two other intervention studies that were similar to those previously admitted by the researcher involved. In response, the article co-authors have proactively retracted the relevant papers as there is insufficient confidence in the validity of the studies to allow them to remain on the public record.

We’ll continue to update this case as journals publish more retractions for Ahimastos, whom we’ve been unable to reach.

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