BMJ 2012;344:e457 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e457 (Published 16 January 2012)

Flu vaccine investigator is suspended for four months for research fraud

By Clare Dyer

A researcher on flu vaccines who forged colleagues’ signatures, asked a nurse to sign a false declaration, and recruited himself into a study under a disguised name has been suspended from practice for four months for research fraud.

Iain Stephenson, honorary consultant physician at the University Hospital of Leicester NHS Trust and a clinical senior lecturer at Leicester University, was the principal investigator in one study, an open label study, and a co-investigator in a second, known as the “prime boost study.”

Dr Stephenson’s actions, which also included destroying an original log sheet and replacing it with new sheets, were dishonest on a number of occasions and amounted to research fraud, a General Medical Council fitness to practise panel held.

Dr Stephenson admitted forging the signature of a colleague, Tristan Clark, six times on the vaccine log for the open label study and forging the signatures of Dr Clark and Karl Nicholson, professor of infectious diseases at Leicester, on their curriculum vitae in the study file

The panel found that Dr Stephenson had recruited three volunteers into both the open label study and the prime boost study but “went to some lengths” to disguise this. He recorded that the three had been given the open label vaccine, when they had received only the vaccine for the prime boost study.

He admitted recording that the three volunteers had had the open label vaccine when they had not, asking the nurse to countersign the vaccine log, and forging Dr Clark’s countersignature.