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Bit Suspect

A new analysis has found that a number of clinical trials include suspicious data, the Guardian reports.

John Carlisle from Torbay Hospital in the UK inspected the results of more than 5,000 randomized, controlled trials published in eight medical journals, including specialty anesthesia and more general medical ones. In particular, the Guardian says, he compared baseline data the papers reported of variables like height and blood pressure to known distributions of these variables in the general population and looked for discrepancies.

As Carlisle reports in the journal Anaesthesia, he examined the distribution of 72,261 means of 29,789 variables in those 5,000 trials to find some 90 trials with suspect data. Retraction Watch adds that 16 of the suspect papers have already been retracted.

"This raises serious questions about data in some studies," Carlisle tells the Guardian. "Innocent or not, the rate of error is worrying as we determine how to treat patients based upon this evidence."

Retraction Watch notes that Carlisle has contacted the editors of the eight journals that published the papers he identified, including the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine. JAMA's editor-in-chief, Howard Bauchner, tells Retraction Watch that he's looking into the allegations and that he has a process to follow before acting.

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