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Professor accused of covering up mistakes in drug trial

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7213.801a (Published 25 September 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:801
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. BMJ

    An “eminent professor” at a London medical school tried to cover up mistakes in a drug trial and warned a research registrar that he was “finished” if he told anyone, the General Medical Council heard this week.

    Robert Davies, professor of respiratory medicine at St Bartholomew's and the Royal London school of medicine before he took early retirement last March, denies charges of serious professional misconduct.

    Professor Davies was also director of research and development at the Royal Hospitals NHS Trust (now St Bartholomew's) and the London NHS Trust but resigned in 1997 after the medical college complained to the GMC about his conduct.

    At the start of a hearing expected to last three weeks, Joanna Glynn, counsel for the GMC, said that Professor Davies undertook clinical trials for SmithKline Beecham, maker of Pranlukast, and Merck Sharp Dohme, maker of Montelukast, on the effects of the drugs on airways obstruction in asthma.

    Through blunders by an inexperienced researcher, tissue samples had dried out and could not be properly analysed. Back up samples, frozen in liquid hydrogen, had been allowed to thaw and were unusable.

    Ms Glynn said that Professor Davies told staff that his “reputation was on the line.” He asked a research registrar, Crichton Ramsay, to break the code that indicated which samples were taken before treatment and which were taken after, breaching the study protocol.

    During the meeting, which Dr Ramsay taped, Professor Davies told him: “If I hear you speak to anybody about this, you are finished.”

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