Drugs trial row scientist resigns

January 6, 2006

Richard Eastell, the Sheffield University scientist at the centre of allegations over the probity of a drug study carried out by his medical research unit, has resigned as director of research at Sheffield National Health Service Trust after separate allegations of financial irregularities.

Professor Eastell, who heads Sheffield University's Bone Metabolism Research Unit and is one of the world's leading osteopathy scholars, was suspended from his NHS post in May last year after allegations that he had wrongly charged the health service for a number of laboratory tests carried out for his university work outside the NHS.

A spokesman for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said this week: "Professor Eastell has resigned from the post of director of research and development for the trust.

"Professor Eastell holds a contract with Sheffield University and will continue to work as an honorary consultant in metabolic bone medicine at the trust."

Following his suspension from the trust in May, it confirmed in September that it had moved from an initial investigation of the allegations to a formal disciplinary investigation. It said that the move to disciplinary procedures did not indicate that initial inquiries uncovered wrongdoing.

The spokeswoman this week said that because Professor Eastell had resigned before the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing, no formal conclusion could be made in his absence with regard to the allegations.

Speaking on behalf of Professor Eastell, a spokesman for the British Medical Association, which is representing him in the case, said: "The trust's investigation has concluded. Professor Eastell resigned as director of research and development prior to the conclusion of the disciplinary process, but he continues to practise as an honorary consultant in metabolic bone medicine."

Professor Eastell has separately been at the centre of a row over the probity of a drug study carried out with Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals by his Bone Metabolism Research Unit.

An investigation by The Times Higher found that research findings of P&G's osteoporosis drug Actonel were released under the Sheffield researchers'

names, despite the fact that they had not carried out any independent analyses of the firm's drug trial data.

P&G has maintained that it is standard industry practice to limit outside academics' access to its data and that all members of the Sheffield team had sufficient access to be satisfied with the conclusions.

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