NEJM corrects 5 papers with flawed statistics

The New England Journal of Medicine corrected five previously published studies and retracted and republished a sixth, a year after an analysis suggested the journal published numerous studies with statistical errors, according to Science.

Dr. John Carlise, editor-in-chief of the journal Anaesthesia and an anesthesiologist at Torbay Hospital in Torquay, U.K., published an analysis in June 2017, accusing NEJM — among other journals — of fabricating data. Dr. Carlisle reanalyzed 5,087 randomized trials published in eight health journals using statistical software. He found about 2 percent of the statistics used in these papers were questionable, including studies published in NEJM.

Just days after Dr. Carlise's report was published, NEJM identified 11 of its articles with glaring issues. Six contained mistakes — five of which stemmed from a misunderstanding of statistical terms. The sixth study, a 2013 clinical trial suggesting a Mediterranean diet can help prevent heart disease, contained more serious errors.

“It turned out when we contacted the investigators, they had already been working on it, they had seen the same thing we had and been concerned,” NEJM Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Drazen told Science.

After reanalyzing the data, researchers discovered the study's findings still suggested a Mediterranean diet is beneficial to individuals with heart disease.

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