A Prison Sentence for Altering Data

A British scientist working for a clinical trial company has received a 3-month prison sentence for falsifying data. Steven Eaton, an employee of the American-owned firm Aptuit, was convicted in March and sentenced in April in Edinburgh for altering results to make unsuccessful drug trials appear successful. He is the first person imprisoned for violations of Britain’s Good Laboratory Practice regulations, adopted in 1999.  

Investigation of Eaton’s work revealed a trail of falsified results dating back to 2003, which, thereported, required “a review of ‘many hundreds’ of safety studies to ensure they had not been compromised.” Eaton’s deception “directly impacted the validity of clinical trials and delayed a number of medicines coming to market,” wrote Andrew Jack in the, quoting the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency’s director of inspection, enforcement, and standards, Gerald Heddell.

Sheriff Michael O’Grady, who pronounced sentence on Eaton in Edinburgh Sheriff’s Court, called his own “sentencing powers … wholly inadequate” because of the possibility that Eaton “could have caused cancer patients unquestionable harm,” reports BBC News.

A prison sentence for scientific misconduct is quite rare, reports . For example, it notes, more than 40 convictions by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity in the past 5 years have resulted in just two prison sentences.

“Why someone who is as highly educated and as experienced as you would embark on such a course of conduct is inexplicable,” O’Grady told Eaton at the sentencing, BBC News reported. But the prize for understatement went to Eaton’s lawyer, Jim Stephenson, who observed, according to BBC News, that Eaton “is unlikely to ever undertake this type of work ever again.”

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