Newsbrief: Ecstasy Scandal Grows as Second Study Retracted 9/19/03

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As DRCNet reported last week (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/302/oops.shtml), researchers at Johns Hopkins University led by Dr. George Ricaurte had to retract sensational research findings published in the journal Science that a single dose of MDMA (ecstasy) could lead to Parkinson's Disease. Ricaurte, who has made a career out of federally-funded studies highlighting the supposed dangers of ecstasy, is getting into deeper trouble this week. The Baltimore Sun reported Monday that Ricaurte and company have now retracted a second study linking ecstasy to brain damage.

Dr. Una McCann, a neuroscientist involved in both experiments, told the Sun she sent a letter of retraction last week to another medical journal, which she declined to identify. But an online publication of the British journal the Scientist reported the following Wednesday: "The European Journal of Pharmacology has received an e-mail from George Ricaurte, principal author of the recently retracted Science paper on the effects of the recreational drug Ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA), which may indicate that another paper will have to be retracted. Editorial representatives of the journal would not describe the contents of the e-mail, but told The Scientist that a decision on the matters therein will be taken at tomorrow's (September 18) editorial board meeting."

McCann said the discovery occurred as the researchers rechecked lab records after it was discovered they had inadvertently substituted methamphetamine for ecstasy in the experiment that was publicized in the first retracted article. "As you might imagine, we systematically went through the books to find out which, if any, of our published studies involved the same [vial]," she said Thursday. "We did find one, and a letter of retraction was sent out to the journal today." More studies may have to be retracted, Dr. McCann conceded.

Ricaurte's ecstasy research has been controversial, with other researchers charging that they overplayed their findings. Now, the criticism is mounting. "This doesn't help their credibility and goes to the whole question of what else they know," Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, told the Sun.

But that was nothing compared to the reaction of Leslie Iversen, prominent British pharmacologist who holds professorships at King's College London and Oxford University and reviewed the effects of cannabis for a House of Lords select committee report. Iversen, who with other British scientists had exchanged letters with the editors of Science over Ricaurte's results months ago, was outraged. "It's an outrageous scandal," Iversen told the Scientist. "It's another example of a certain breed of scientist who appear to do research on illegal drugs mainly to show what the governments want them to show. They extract large amounts of grant money from the government to do this sort of biased work... I hope the present retraction and embarrassment to the people involved will be some sort of lesson to them."

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Issue #303, 9/19/03 Editorial: Don't Stop There | A Clean, Well-Lit Place to Shoot Dope: Western Hemisphere's First Government-Approved Safe Injection Site Opens in Vancouver | And Then There Were Four: Canadian Marijuana Possession Laws Crumble | Britain's Pending Cannabis Decrim Will Allow for Some Arrests | More Than Just Memories: Cheryl Miller Memorial Project in DC Next Week | Newsbrief: Seattle Voters Tell Police to Make Marijuana Possession Lowest Priority | Newsbrief: Marijuana Legal in Alaska, But Attorney General Orders Cops to Confiscate It, Work with Feds to Build Cases | Newsbrief: Ecstasy Scandal Grows as Second Study Retracted | Newsbrief: Drug Policy Alliance Issues Report on Changes in State Drug Laws | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Reefer Madness in the Heart of Africa | Newsbrief: Campaign Comments -- John Edwards on Industrial Hemp | Newsbrief: Murderous Thai Drug War in Final Drive to be "Drug Free" | Newsbrief: UN Agency Calls for Change in Colombia Drug War Strategy | Current Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, Plan Colombia, HEA, Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | Errata: Dutch MedMj, Ecstasy Study Stories Last Two Weeks | The Reformer's Calendar
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