GlaxoSmithKline investigates alleged data fraud involving R&D lab staffers in China

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has launched a probe of a research study involving its employees from a research lab in Shanghai, China. The investigation follows allegations of fraudulent data in a scientific paper published three years ago in Nature Medicine, with a number of Glaxo scientists listed as co-authors, Pharmalot reported.

The London-based drug giant has jumped into action with the integrity of the research, which focused on the activity of the interleukin-7 protein in autoimmune disease, on the line. As Pharmalot reports, the company has sidelined at least one employee who is on leave. "We can acknowledge that we are carrying out an internal investigation into alleged issues related to a scientific paper. As you know, we take such matters very seriously--the integrity of our research is critical to our work and we are doing whatever is required to investigate these matters fully," Glaxo employees wrote in a memo, as cited by the publication.

"I can confirm that we're carrying out an internal investigation into some alleged issues related to a scientific paper but I don't have further details at the moment--and it wouldn't be appropriate for us comment on particular aspects of an investigation while it's ongoing," a GSK spokeswoman said in a prepared statement sent to FierceBiotech and others. "The integrity of our research is critical to our work and we are giving this our full attention. We'll be in a position to provide more information once the investigation has completed."

A whiff of scandal can quickly grow pungent on pharma giants, which regularly raise the ire of the patient advocates over issues such as the high costs and potential dangers of their drugs. Glaxo has made an effort to increase the transparency of its clinical data, taking steps over the past several months to open its vaults of de-identified drug-study data to the research community. Glaxo took the action after taking heat about the published cardio threats from taking its diabetes drug Avandia, which is a subject of major discussion this week as a panel discusses the potential risks of the treatment.

Glaxo certainly isn't alone in the ranks of pharma players mired in controversy over research data. In another pharma scandal Pharmalot's Ed Silverman has closely followed, Novartis ($NVS) is investigating the involvement of two company employees from Japan in research of the company's blockbuster heart drug Diovan, research that was supposed to be independent.

- check out Pharmalot's article