On March 25th, 2014, the Androgen Study Group sent a retraction letter to the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr. Howard Bauchner, asking him to retract Rebecca Vigen and colleagues’ November 2013 article, “Association of Testosterone Therapy with Mortality, Myocardial Infarction, and Stroke in Men with Low Testosterone Levels,” which has recently precipitated concerns regarding cardiovascular risks with testosterone therapy. The retraction letter, signed by three professional medical societies and a group of over 130 scientists and physicians, cites “gross data mismanagement,” rendering the article “no longer credible.” Since the article’s publication, it has undergone two published corrections—one due to misreporting of primary results, the other due to errors presented in the text and figures.

Calling for retraction of a journal article is not a small task and is exceedingly rare. The fact that several professional societies and numerous accomplished experts in the field are united in this petition indicates the seriousness of the article’s errors. The article’s “sloppy science” has contributed to a shift in the public’s perception of testosterone therapy from a treatment that can improve outcomes to a treatment that may cause harm and potentially even death.

Publishing results in medical journals should not be considered a right, but a privilege. It is of the upmost importance that authors who publish these articles are honest and report accurate results. It is also important that we, as readers, critically evaluate the material we read; we should not change our perceptions of a treatment blindly after reading an article, without applying our own “lens” of critical thinking. Nonetheless, reporting data ridden with errors should be considered a violation of trust between the journal and the public. Hopefully the trust lost after publication of this article is able to be repaired and instances like this continue to be exceedingly rare.

Danielle Cavazzini, PharmD

References

1.   World Experts and Androgen Study Group Petition JAMA to Retract Misleading Article on Testosterone Therapy. Boston, MA: PR Newswire; March 25, 2014. http://m.prnewswire.com/news-releases/world-experts-and-androgen-study-group-petition-jama-to-retract-misleading-article-on-testosterone-therapy-252219051.html. Accessed April 13, 2014.