January 18, 2006

Norway probes cancer doctor accused of faking data

OSLO (Reuters) - Health authorities opened a probe of a Norwegian cancer researcher on Wednesday after his hospital accused him of falsifying data for an article published in a leading medical journal.

The investigation, ordered by the medical officer for the Oslo region, would cover cancer specialist Jon Sudbo and Oslo's Radium Hospital where he worked. Sudbo, 44, is on sick leave and has not commented on the charges that he faked data.

"We welcome this decision," Stein Vaaler, a hospital director, told Reuters of the investigation that will also look at whether patients suffered from Sudbo's recommendations. "We think this is fair."

The hospital, known as the Comprehensive Cancer Center, said at the weekend that Sudbo had admitted faking data for a study of mouth cancer published in October in the British journal the Lancet.

Norwegian health authorities can reprimand, sack or bar doctors from practicing medicine for violations that harm patients. In the worst cases, sanctions against institutions can include forced closure or fines.

In the Lancet article, Sudbo and co-authors said that commonly used painkillers can reduce the risks of mouth cancer in smokers but that long-term use could raise the chances of dying from heart disease.

The hospital said that he made up patients for the apparent review of 454 people with oral cancer. Sudbo's motives for the alleged falsifications are unknown.

Separately, a commission set up by the Radium Hospital and led by Swedish expert Anders Eckbom began meeting on Wednesday to examine Sudbo's report, his previous work and whether his recommendations had an impact on cancer treatment.

The commission, due to report back by April 1, would also examine why none of Sudbo's co-authors or reviewers spotted the errors before the article went to print.