Journal flags paper on painkiller for misused trial registry record

A pain journal has expressed concern over a 2018 paper by a group of researchers in China after a reader alerted the publication to problems with the article, including previously-reported data and a bogus trial registry record. 

The article, “Population pharmacokinetic modeling of flurbiprofen, the active metabolite of flurbiprofen axetil, in Chinese patients with postoperative pain,” appeared in the Journal of Pain Research, a title from Dove Medical Press. The authors are affiliated with several Peking University and Capital Medical University in Beijing. 

Here’s the expression of concern

The Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the Journal of Pain Research wish to issue an Expression of concern for the published article.

A reader raised concerns to the Editor about the validity of the data presented in the published article. It was alleged three authors of the present article, Zhang H, Feng Yand Gu J, had previously published the results of the study in the article: 

Zhang H, Feng Y, Gu J. Distribution of flurbiprofen axetil in cerebral-spinal fluid after intravenous administration. Chin J Anaesthesiol. 2011;31(04):432–434. doi:10.3760/cma.j.issn.0254-1416.2011.04.012.

It was also alleged the clinical trial registration (CTR) number (ChiCTR-TRC-11001791) provided in the published article was taken from an unrelated study and had no association with the current study.

A Google search for the trial in question turned up this result, which shows the study as looking at: 

the role of cyclooxygenase inhibitors in preventing post operative cognitive dysfunction in elderly patients

The listed leader of that trial, An Haiyan, is the last author of the flurbiprofen paper. An did not respond to a request for comment. 

We couldn’t find any listing in the database for “flurbiprofen axetil.” 

Given the pretty serious flaws, we asked the ethics office at Dove about why it opted for an EoC instead of a retraction. Peer Review & Research Integrity Manager Shay O’Neill responded:

We put up the EoC because the investigation has been taking some time to resolve, but the investigation is still ongoing, and we’ll be updating the note accordingly once we’ve reached a resolution.

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