It’s always funny when small children try to play hide-and-go-seek by covering their eyes, but when grown-ups do it, it loses its charm. That’s what Dr. Andres Martin’s has done in his response to Dr. Juriedini’s request that the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry retract the 2001 Study 329 article. They had a perfect chance to do the right thing. They declined to take it.
Thank you for your Letter to the Editor, submitted July 20, 2012, regarding Keller et al., 2001. Following the June 27, 2012 settlement between GlaxoSmithKline and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Journal’s editorial team undertook a thorough evaluation of the article, the legal settlement, and related materials. The authors of the article were contacted and asked to respond to the questions and concerns raised by the settlement. After a comprehensive and extensive review, the Journal editors found no basis for retraction or other editorial action.
Due to the nature of the concerns and serious consideration given to the situation, the evaluation process was quite lengthy, and we appreciate your patience while the editorial team conducted its review. The inquiry is considered complete, and as such, your letter will not be published in the Journal.
I had also contacted the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry prior to their recent yearly meeting. Rather than write the Journal, I wrote the outgoing president, the incoming President, and contacted the Ethics Committee. All responded cordially and assured me convincingly that the matter was under review. So I think I was more hopeful than most about what they would do. My logic was that the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry itself was responsible for its official journal, but as we now see, it remained in the hands of the journal.
"The authors of the article were contacted and asked to respond to the questions and concerns raised by the settlement." It goes without saying that contacting the authors seems an odd way to go about an investigation, particularly these authors. For example, there’s a deposition of Martin Keller about this study available on the Internet. It’s 125 pages long, but easy to summarize: "If you think I did something wrong, you’re wrong because I’ve never done any wrong things, and I don’t specifically remember anything I’ve ever done." That may sound facetious, but if you have the stomach to read it through, you’ll agree with my assessment. It’s maddening. Neal Ryan, the second author is heading up the Back to the Future Project which maps the road ahead for the AACAP [see this comment]. Karen Dineen Wagner, Boris Birmaher, and Graham Emslie continue to grind out articles about psychopharmacology in children and are prominent in AACAP affairs. I doubt that anyone on the author list was excited about the embarrassment of a retraction, but we already knew that. So did the Editor, Dr. Andres Martin.
In this particular case, there are no facts in question. It was a negative trial, declared negative by the people who did it. The paper was ghost-written and reviewed by the sponsor before any of the twenty two authors ever saw a manuscript. The science was jury-rigged to imply a positive outcome where none was supported using well-documented sleight of hand. None of that is speculative. And the article has been a centerpiece for court settlements worth billions of dollars. Yet the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says "the Journal editors found no basis for retraction or other editorial action."