May was quite a month forRik Torfs, the rector of a prominent university in Belgium. On May 9, Torfs lost his re-election campaign for rector of KU Leuven by a slim margin—out of more than 2100 votes, he lost by amere 48. And just 20 days later, on May 29, Torfs wrotehis final column for the Flemish daily newspaperDe Standaard — whom he believes was at least partly to blame for his election loss.
The fallout continues for a study conducted at a local CrossFit gym by researchers at The Ohio State University. First it was corrected, now it’s been retracted, and it continues to be the basis of litigation against both the authors and the publisher.
Editors at the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research have decided to pull the 2013 study after learning that the research protocol had not been approved by Ohio State’s institutional review board (IRB).
Over the past few years, the study has spawned several lawsuits, including a defamation suit brought by gym owner Mitch Potterf against Ohio State that landed him a six-figure settlement, as well as an ongoing suit by Potterf against the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA, which publishes the journal). The CrossFit brand has also sued the NSCA. [See update at end of post for more on that case.]
A high-profile pediatric oncologist quietly left his former institution in 2015 after it concluded his clinical trials had been affected by significant “administrative problems.” But now the results of the university’s investigations and what followed have become public, after a paper in Belgium published a series of news reports last month.
We’re still hazy on some details of the case. The recent news reports allege that Van Gool started some clinical trials without proper ethical approvals and informed consent, and may have misled patients and their families about the benefits and potential side effects of his experimental treatment. Meanwhile, the CEO University Hospitals Leuven (UZLeuven) told us that Stefaan Van Gool, who had appointments at both the hospital and the university (KULeuven), left the hospital in 2015 as a result of administrative problems, but did not disclose the specific nature of these issues.
For the past 15 years or so, Van Gool has been developing and studying a vaccine to treat various cancers, initially at UZLeuven and, after September 2015, at a private clinic in Germany. Today, patients travel to his private clinic from all over the world and pay tens of thousands of dollars to receive the vaccine. But according to Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard, several years ago, UZLeuven began investigating his research and patient care practices. The outcome of these investigations was kept private until last month, after De Standaard published its reports.
Marc Decramer, the CEO of UZLeuven, confirmed that Van Gool left the hospital in 2015 and the university in 2016,but did not provide the specific reasons for his exit:
When two surgeons in Greece learned that a patient had developed a rare side effect following weight loss surgery, they were eager to publish the case.
After extensive testing, the patient was diagnosed with Wernicke’s encephalopathy—a neurological disorder caused by thiamine deficiency—following a sleeve gastrectomy procedure. As the authors note in the paper, they had seen only eight other cases following the procedure in the literature.
It turns out, theirs was not the ninth. After the patient unfortunately died, he was examined by a coroner, who ruled he did not, in fact, have Wernicke’s encephalopathy. So Dimitrios Manatakis and Nikolaos Georgopoulos, both based at Athens Naval and Veterans Hospital in Greece, have retracted their 2014 case study.
A researcher in South Korea has retracted a 2015 paper after telling the journal he falsified the institutional approval required to conduct the animal experiments.
In the article, the author explicitly says that the Animal Experiment Review Board of a university based in Seoul, South Korea approved the experiments, but according to the journal, “the author did not receive an approval by the board and he used a false approval number.”
Researchers have agreed to pull a 2015 study exploring whether a plant extract can safeguard tanners from ultraviolet exposure after not obtaining formal approval from an ethics committee.
According to the first author, the problem lay in a misunderstanding – when they originally applied for approval six years ago, the researchers believed they didn’t need to go through a formal approval process, since the compound was commercially available without a prescription. Once they realized their mistake, they chose to retract the paper.
Three psychiatric studies of children contained a myriad of problems that may have put participants at greater risk than was disclosed by consent forms, according to a 2014 letter sent to hundreds of the participants and their families.
Through a public records request, we’ve obtained a copy of the letter — which lists a host of problems in the studies, ranging from enrolling ineligible patients, not informing families of the risks associated with the studies, and skipping tests intended to minimize the risks associated with lithium.
In 2013, Mani Pavuluri told the University of Illinois at Chicago that one of her study participants had been hospitalized — an event which prompted the university to halt three of her studies, launch a misconduct probe, and send letters to approximately 350 families of children participating in the research, notifying them of what happened.
The authors of a 2014 study about asthma in Norwegian athletes have retracted it after realizing they hadn’t obtained proper approval from an ethical committee.
The study’s first and corresponding author of the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine — Julie Stang from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences in Oslo — told us the authors had struggled to obtain ethical approval for the research, but believed the issue had been resolved.
However, earlier this year, a member of an ethical committee wrote an article in the Norwegian press about his concerns regarding the study, which tested the effects of three drugs on top athletes’ breathing. In it, he said the Regional Committees for medical and health professional research ethics (REC) had not approved the study, as members were concerned the presumably healthy athletes were being exposed to drugs used to treat asthma, which could enhance their performance.
Stang has denied that the study had anything to do with boosting athletic performance.