The problem with and controversy surrounding jail time for pharma employees is that corporate criminal and harmful acts/patterns of conduct seldom occur at one point in time. Rather, they occur over long periods of time, for example, in the case of data falsification in a number of studies and marketing drugs for inappropriate or off-label conditions.
Steven Eaton is the first scientist in the UK jailed for falsifying clinical trial results. To my knowledge, this is the first case of a researcher being held accountable for data falsification. Eaton is a researcher at the Edinburgh branch of Aptuit, a US pharmaceutical firm. His jail time is three months.
Since 2003, Eaton had been selectively reporting and suppressing trial results. A common practice in the pharmaceutical industry, Eaton manipulated trial results to appear more favourable by actively selecting for data on drug concentration and analytical efficacy.
In its press release, the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) stated that:
"The [Eaton's] actions led to the review of many hundreds of safety studies assessing the impact of the data manipulation and to ensure that the compromised data was not used in future submissions to relevant authorities without their knowledge."
This is a positive move by the UK MHRA to show its intolerance of industry's suppression of data that can cause significant harm to patients. Unfortunately, however, Eaton's conduct is not unique to this one situation. Contract research organizations (CROs) and drug companies violate ethical standards when suppressing unfavourable drug trial data to speed up the drug regulatory and approval processes and financially benefit shareholders. A survey by the Access to Medicine Foundation concluded that, typically, drug companies do not discipline CROs for violating data reporting ethics standards.
Ex-Aptuit Researcher Jailed Over Falsified Trial Results
Scientist Steven Eaton Jailed for Falsifying Drug Test Results
United Kingdom MHRA: Press Release: Man Jailed in Pre-Clinical Trial Data Scam Case