Author of a study on HPV vaccines hoodwinked journal with a fake name

The author of an article that claimed to link HPV vaccines to a higher rate of cervical cancer — the disease the vaccine is designed to prevent — deceived the journal about his real identity, according to the journal.

But the journal will leave the paper intact, simply adding a line about the author to the paper and publishing an editorial about the incident.

The subterfuge — in which the author claimed an affiliation with the Karolinska Institutet — was noted earlier this week by the Swedish medical newspaper Läkartidningen. After that, the journal added this to the author’s information on the article:

Under the current circumstances where publication of any information critical of vaccines can have serious personal repercussions, the author has chosen to publish under this pseudonym.

Today, the journal’s editors published an “Editorial Statement on Corrections:”

The comment “Increased incidence of cervical cancer in Sweden: Possible link with HPV vaccination” was published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics online on April 30, 2018. The author gave his name as Lars Andersson, in the department of physiology and pharmacology, Karolinska Institute (KI), Sweden.

On May 8, the KI informed us that its department of physiology and pharmacology did not have any person of this name and requested us to remove the name of the institution. So, on the same day a correction was carried out and the name of KI was removed and duly intimated to KI.

Since then, we have investigated and learned the identity of the author. The author has said that he used a pseudonym because he believed the use of his real name would have invited personal repercussions from those opposed to any questioning of vaccines.

This deception of the journal’s editors is unacceptable. The author could have asked the editors for confidentiality, giving the reasons. Editors may choose to publish articles without revealing the true name of the author, if it is determined that the circumstances justify it.

However, we considered the matter and decided to keep the article on the site as the issues raised by it are important and discussion on it is in the public interest. The author’s true name is withheld at his request.

The author of the article did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to the email listed on the paper, and the journal declined to provide us with any information about him.

Of note: In 2016, Adam Marcus and I highlighted — and praised — the journal in our column for STAT.

Update, 1945 UTC, 5/9/18: The author of the article responded to a request for comment by referring us to the editorial. He has not responded to a follow-up question pointing out that the editorial does not explain how he justified lying to the journal.

Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up for an email every time there’s a new post (look for the “follow” button at the lower right part of your screen), or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at team@retractionwatch.com.

10 thoughts on “Author of a study on HPV vaccines hoodwinked journal with a fake name”

  1. Ignoring the issue of the author’s subterfuges, the claims made in the letter do not stand up well to any examination:
    http://www.lakartidningen.se/Aktuellt/Nyheter/2018/05/Koppling-mellan-KI-och-vaccinkritisk-artikel-nu-borta/

    However, according to Joakim Dillner, there is nothing to suggest a link between HPV vaccination and the increased number of cases of cervical cancer.
    “We have one of the strongest increases in cervical cancer in the age group 40 to 49 years, that is, a group not covered by any HPV vaccination,” he says, continuing.
    – The author repeatedly states that he can not find any statistics on HPV vaccination in this age group. He says that if you do not have statistics, maybe people have gone and vaccinated in any case, so to speak.
    According to Joakim Dillner, a reorganization of the vaccination register makes data for vaccinations in that group only available until the end of 2015.
    “But data up to 2015 are very clear, as stated in the NKCX Annual Report for 2016. Vaccination is recommended up to 18 years. In Stockholm and Skåne they had an offer of vaccination up to 26 years. But above 26 years, there is basically no one who vaccinates. “

    [Google translate]

  2. Looking through IJME archives, I do get the impression that an anti-vaccine message is part of their definition of “medical ethics”. E.g.

    “Infanrix hexa and sudden death: a review of the periodic safety update reports submitted to the European Medicines Agency”
    Jacob Puliyel, C Sathyamala

    “Deaths following pentavalent vaccine and the revised AEFI classification”
    Jacob Puliyel, Anant Phadke
    —————————————————–
    The “News” sidebar on the journal’s site also fosters an impression that the IJME is promoting an anti-vaccine mocktroversy in India. It is dominated by links to such important announcements as

    “Robert F Kennedy, Jr. Hiding vaccine-related deaths with semantic sleight-of-hand. worldmercuryproject.org. July 18, 2017”

    “Anoo Bhuyan. “We don’t monitor deaths, we monitor adverse events,” says government on deaths after vaccination. The wire.in. July 7, 2017: ”

    “Maitri Porecha. DNA EXCLUSIVE: Govt washes hands of post-vaccination deaths. dnaindia.com July 6, 2017: ”

    “Priyanka Vora. WHO’s revised norms are allowing the use of unsafe vaccines. scroll.in. July 5, 2017: ”

    “Dick Bijl, HPV Vaccine, Zorg.nu. (Telecast) November 15, 2016: http://zorgnu.avrotros.nl/uitzendingen/achtergrondartikelen/detail/hpv-vaccin-engelse-ondertiteling/ (With English Subtitles). ”

    “Peter Gotzsche, Director, Nordic Cochrane. Centre. Letter to Head of Broadcast Compliance, RTE, on False statements on on Irish national TV (RTE) about the Nordic Cochrane Centre in documentary about HPV vaccines. December 1, 2016: “

  3. herr doktor bimler, you say: “Looking through IJME archives, I do get the impression that an anti-vaccine message is part of their definition of “medical ethics”.”

    Can you please clarify your position – do you believe it is ‘anti-vaccine’ to criticise any vaccine products?

    Do you believe any citizen questioning vaccination policy and practice should be labelled ‘anti-vaccine’ and marginalised?

    Do you believe any criticism of vaccine products should be forbidden?

    1. “Clarify my position”? Alas, that would stray too far from the topic so my position must remain unclarified.

      Now the news side-bar at the IJME shows a credulous enthusiasm for any negative story about vaccines… even stories coming from discredited individuals such as Kennedy. And the journal has published at least one editorial from Dr Jacob Puliyel, who is opposed to (or open-minded about, if you prefer) not just one vaccine, but any vaccine.

      Now it may be that the journal has a specific editorial position on vaccines. Or it may have a pro-controversy editorial position, because “medical ethics” not really a newsworthy topic without a controversy of some kind.

      1. Apparently the author of the HPV vaccine study “used a pseudonym because he believed the use of his real name would have invited personal repercussions from those opposed to any questioning of vaccines”.

        Regardless of the rights or wrongs of this particular study, it is a serious matter that individuals are afraid to openly question vaccine products in our liberal democracies.

        So herr doktor bimler, it would not stray too far from the topic to clarify your position, and I ask you again to answer my questions above, e.g. do you believe any criticism or questioning of vaccination policy and practice by citizens should be forbidden?

        1. I also speak in support of those who are afraid to undertake studies or seek answers that are inconvenient. People who can’t stand the heat of criticism have no place in science. The pursuit of truth is often littered with inconvenient facts and setbacks in one’s plans. The valid use of retraction is in danger of being misused as a weapon of silence, instead of science. The fact that the author was afraid to publish his name is significant. Science, with regard to vaccines. is now a hostile environment for anyone seeking any answers beyond what the corporations and public health officials want to hear. It’s even more hostile if that someone is a scientist. Because all criticism is painted with the anti-reason brush, both bogus scams and honest critical science ends up in the same bucket. Leading to even more confusion and danger for the patients.

        2. Apparently the author of the HPV vaccine study “used a pseudonym because he believed the use of his real name would have invited personal repercussions from those opposed to any questioning of vaccines”.
          … it is a serious matter that individuals are afraid to openly question vaccine products in our liberal democracies.

          If the author preferred anonymity he could have stated this and used an obvious pseudonym. Instead he preferred imposture. Given this, I see no reason to take seriously his claim to fear persecution. Note that “Lars Andersson” has been contributing his opinions in journals for a while, without the Karolinska Institute even noticing — which is to say, no-one was writing to the KI demanding that they sack this guy! Where is the persecution?

          The only “serious matter” is that some individuals prefer to make up credentials* when they “question vaccine products in our liberal democracies.”

          * The editors of IJME are aware of the author’s identity, and have dropped the claim to a KI affiliation, implying that this was also an imposture.

  4. I’ve drawn some of this together in a blog post at Sciblogs:

    https://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/2018/05/11/faking-an-hpv-vaccine-claim-in-more-ways-than-one/

    I’ve also reached out to the editor who edited the ‘Lars Andersson’ piece a couple of days ago. I haven’t heard from her yet.

    (I made a start on breaking down the misuse of data in the article this in a series of Appendices, but cut it in order to get my piece out in a reasonable amount of time. Also not sure how many readers would really read a breakdown!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.