A senior scientist from Women’s College Hospital has resigned after being caught “manipulating” results of a major study on bone density in post-menopausal women, the facility announced to staff Monday morning.
Dr. Sophie Jamal, former research director of the Centre for Osteoporosis and Bone Health, and the division head of endocrinology and metabolism, quit last month in the midst of an investigation that she had falsified the results of a study on the effects of nitroglycerine ointment on bone density.
The investigation concluded earlier this month that there was “unequivocal evidence of systemic data manipulation” by the physician, states an email to staff from hospital president Marilyn Emery.
The study, published in 2011 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that used of the ointment resulted in “significant increases” in bone mineral density. The findings received international attention.
Emery said she does not know why Jamal altered the results to make them appear better than they actually were.
Some 243 post-menopausal women participated in the study, with some receiving the ointment and some receiving a placebo.
“We have notified relevant research participants, via registered letter, that they may have received inaccurate information about the research. We have found no evidence that there have been negative outcomes for these participants,” Emery said.
It is expected that JAMA may issue a retraction, the hospital said.
Jamal declined an opportunity to comment through her lawyer Jennifer McKendry.
“We do not have instructions to make any comments on your story,” McKendry said in an email.
The hospital learned of an allegation of research misconduct from the University of Toronto last spring and immediately launched an inquiry, along with the university.
In May, the inquiry concluded there was something to the allegations and a full-fledged investigation was then undertaken.
The following month, Jamal stepped down from her position as division head and stepped away from all research.
She left the hospital last month.
Dr. Paula Rochon, vice president of research and Women’s College, said the facility adheres to nationally accepted research and ethical standards.
Even so, the hospital is looking at what it could do to further improve protocols, she said.