A prominent US cardiologist has rebuked Don Poldermans, the cardiovascular researcher at the center of a research scandal in the Netherlands. As reported here previously, Poldermans was fired for scientific misconduct by the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, where he had been a professor of medicine and the head of perioperative cardiac care. He was widely published and active in the field, serving as a member of the European Society of Cardiology committee for practice guidelines and as the chairperson of the ESC guidelines on pre-operative cardiac risk assessment and perioperative cardiac management in non-cardiac surgery. He was also the lead author of the influential (but controversial) 1999 New England Journal of Medicine DECREASE study on the use of bisoprolol during vascular surgery. An investigation at Erasmus found that Poldermans used patient data without written permission, used fictitious data, and submitted two reports to conferences which included knowingly unreliable data.
The new episode has its origins in a review article published last October by prominent cardiologist University of Michigan cardiologist Kim Eagle, and a colleague, Vineet Chopra, in the American Journal of Medicine. The article, “Perioperative Mischief: The Price of Academic Misconduct,” discusses the “caustic” effects of the Poldermans case, noting the dilemma facing clinicians “now that a considerable portion of the literature is enshrouded in uncertainty.” Now (as first reported by Retraction Watch) Poldermans and the Michigan cardiologists have exchanged letters in the April issue of the journal.
In his letter responding to Eagle and Chopra’s review article, Poldermans is critical of the Michigan authors for accusing him of “scientific fraud.” Poldermans acknowledges in his letter that he made various mistakes, including failure to obtain written informed consent and “negligent” data collection. He denies, however, that he fabricated data or published any results based on the compromised data. He writes that Eagle and Chopra assumed he was guilty despite the fact that the final report from the Erasmus Medical Center had not been released. He notes that in the final report Erasmus had concluded that “no evidence was found for any manipulation of the research results by the researchers in the sense of deliberate steering of results into a particular direction.”
In their response, Eagle and Chopra said that in their article they had stated that the accusations of fraud were still allegations. More importantly, Poldermans missed the larger point of their paper: