Author of a study on HPV vaccines hoodwinked journal with a fake name

The author of an article that claimed to link HPV vaccines to a higher rate of cervical cancer — the disease the vaccine is designed to prevent — deceived the journal about his real identity, according to the journal.

But the journal will leave the paper intact, simply adding a line about the author to the paper and publishing an editorial about the incident.

The subterfuge — in which the author claimed an affiliation with the Karolinska Institutet — was noted earlier this week by the Swedish medical newspaper Läkartidningen. After that, the journal added this to the author’s information on the article:

Under the current circumstances where publication of any information critical of vaccines can have serious personal repercussions, the author has chosen to publish under this pseudonym.

Today, the journal’s editors published an “Editorial Statement on Corrections:”

The comment “Increased incidence of cervical cancer in Sweden: Possible link with HPV vaccination” was published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics online on April 30, 2018. The author gave his name as Lars Andersson, in the department of physiology and pharmacology, Karolinska Institute (KI), Sweden.

On May 8, the KI informed us that its department of physiology and pharmacology did not have any person of this name and requested us to remove the name of the institution. So, on the same day a correction was carried out and the name of KI was removed and duly intimated to KI.

Since then, we have investigated and learned the identity of the author. The author has said that he used a pseudonym because he believed the use of his real name would have invited personal repercussions from those opposed to any questioning of vaccines.

This deception of the journal’s editors is unacceptable. The author could have asked the editors for confidentiality, giving the reasons. Editors may choose to publish articles without revealing the true name of the author, if it is determined that the circumstances justify it.

However, we considered the matter and decided to keep the article on the site as the issues raised by it are important and discussion on it is in the public interest. The author’s true name is withheld at his request.

The author of the article did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to the email listed on the paper, and the journal declined to provide us with any information about him.

Of note: In 2016, Adam Marcus and I highlighted — and praised — the journal in our column for STAT.

Update, 1945 UTC, 5/9/18: The author of the article responded to a request for comment by referring us to the editorial. He has not responded to a follow-up question pointing out that the editorial does not explain how he justified lying to the journal.


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