Author who lied to journals about his identity slated to have four articles on vaccines retracted

An author who has published four articles about the alleged risks of vaccines — but who lied about his name and claimed an affiliation with the Karolinska Institutet — has lost one of the papers. He will also lose three more, Retraction Watch has learned.

Earlier this month, a paper in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics claiming that the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine is linked to a higher rate of cervical cancer — the very disease it is intended to prevent — by “Lars Andersson” sparked a bit of a firestorm when a Swedish newspaper reported that Andersson was not who he said he was. The journal responded by adding a line to the paper — first published on April 30 of this year — about the subterfuge, and with an editorial about the issues the incident raised, but leaving the paper intact.

Yesterday, the journal retracted the paper, “Increased incidence of cervical cancer in Sweden: Possible link with HPV vaccination,” writing that

…we have concluded that tolerating the author’s deception and retaining the article was an error of judgment.

Three more retractions to come

And separately, Ulf de Faire, the editor of the Journal of Internal Medicine, which had earlier published one paper and two letters by Anderson, said in response to a question from Retraction Watch yesterday that his journal would be retracting all three. de Faire, a professor at the Karolinska, said:

We are currently discussing with our publisher, Wiley about the technical aspects in executing it.

The three pieces by Andersson in the Journal of Internal Medicine — which de Faire had told Dagens Medicine about two weeks ago would remain, but with an expression of concern — are:

Andersson, who referred us to the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics editorial statement when we requested comment earlier this month, has not responded to a new request for comment. Late last year, he also published a letter to the editor about HPV vaccines in Vaccine.

The episode had led to an exchange of blog and Facebook posts between Amar Jesani, the editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, and Ole Petter Otterson, the president of the Karolinska. Otterson wrote:

A publishing system that allows papers to be published under false identities and affiliations might easily foment distrust of the medical publishing process and of research in general. Validating the identity and affiliation of the author(s) and safeguarding quality in published reports are issues of utmost importance. Journals have a responsibility in this regard. In this particular case, leading researchers with intimate knowledge of the vaccination field have identified serious flaws in the published report and its conclusion, thus questioning the quality of the review process.

As late as Tuesday of last week, the consulting editor who handled the matter, along with several co-authors, was still insisting in a comment on Otterson’s blog that the

…attack on The Indian Journal of Medical Ethics in the name of publication ethics is flawed, and indicates a reluctance to engage in discussion on the scientific issues.

Philosopher Christian Munthe also blogged about the incident before the retraction:

Hopefully, we will in the near future see a forceful shift of policy, maybe also some changes of the editorial management, to get the IJME back on its formerly very promising course. I, for one, very much hope that this will occur, as applied ethics very much needs high-standard journals based in more than just the wealthiest parts of the world.

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