A Harvard physician has been sued by a manufacturer claiming its product was unfairly disparaged in a paper he wrote in a scientific journal, an unusual development in the world of scholarly publishing.
Dr. Douglas P. Kiel, a gerontologist at Harvard Medical School and Hebrew Senior Life, wrote an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that said hip-protectors did not prevent fractures in nursing home patients. HipSaver Inc. of Canton, which makes hip protectors, filed a suit in Norfolk Superior Court Feb. 15 alleging that Kiel knowingly tested an inferior product and produced results that placed its version in a poor light. A story on the suit appeared in yesterday's Harvard Crimson.
“It would have been more appropriate and scientifically accurate for Dr. Kiel to limit his conclusions to the specific hip protector that he studied,” HipSaver president Edward L. Goodwin said in a statement. “As it stands, his JAMA-published conclusions have wrongfully damaged the entire field of hip protection, including the HipSaver brand.”
JAMA editors are not commenting on the suit, but stand by the study as published, a spokesman said. Kiel did not return a call from the Globe seeking comment, but Hebrew Senior Life is looking carefully at the charge before responding, spokeswoman Jennifer Davis said in an interview.
“The research was published in one of the most prestigious and carefully vetted peer-reviewed journal published in the country,” she said. “Dr. Kiel is a very well respected and accomplished geriatric physician as well as researcher. So we certainly at this point feel we would do nothing other than support him completely in face of the complaint.”
Dr. Jerome Kassirer, a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, said while he could cite several examples of researchers being intimidated by drug manufacturers before publication, he didn’t know of another case of an author being sued for an article after it appeared in a scientific journal.
“My thought is if someone has done honest research, they should be able to stand up to any kind of criticism,” he said in an interview, pointing out he had no knowledge of the Kiel case. “So if the research is properly designed and properly carried out, then it’s hard to imagine they could be faulted for what they did.”
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
Elizabeth Comeau, Senior Health Producer