Fake researcher fabricated finding that HPV vaccine causes cervical cancer

June 6, 2018 - 06:20

A research article alleging that HPV vaccines can cause cancer has now been withdrawn. "Extremely serious," says Karolinska Institutet.

The Karolinska Institutet says they have no knowledge of a person claiming to be a researcher who is affiliated with them. Now a study this individual has authored about cervical cancer vaccines has been withdrawn. (Photo: NTB Scanpix)

An alleged researcher who calls himself “Lars Andersson” has falsely claimed that he is affiliated with the Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm in publications in international medical journals.

His motive seems to be to spread opposition to vaccinations. Karolinska Institutet is Sweden’s single largest centre of medical academic research.

Now the communication department at KI is working to reduce the damage.

A month ago, Andersson wrote that the HPV vaccine could be blamed for a recent increase in the number of cases of cervical cancer in parts of Sweden. His article was published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.

HPV, the human papillomavirus, causes cervical cancer. The vaccine is specifically tailored to prevent this disease.

False information

Andersson has stated that he works at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Karolinska Institutet. He has also stated that he is a retired professor.

Now, Läkartidning, a Swedish medical publication, has revealed that Lars Andersson is not the person he claims to be.

“There is no Lars Andersson who fits this individual’s description,” said Peter Andreasson, head of the Karolinska Institutet press office.

Andreasson said there is no one of that name who either now or previously has been employed by KI, nor is that person associated with KI in any other way.

The research institute asked the journal to remove the HPV article.

Nothing to the claims

Joakim Dillner, a professor in the Division for Pathology at KI, told Läkartidning that there is no evidence behind the allegations that the increase in cervical cancer in Sweden is due to the HPV vaccination.

He hopes that the fake publication will not affect people's willingness to be vaccinated against HPV.

This article about alleged links between the HPV vaccine and the increased incidence of cervical cancer in certain parts of Sweden has been withdrawn. (Screenshot from the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics)

"It’s very sad that Karolinska Institutet’s name is being abused this way," he told Läkartidningen.

Mystery man

So who is Lars Andersson?

“We do not know his identity, and the name he has used is a pseudonym. We also have no evidence that he has ever been a researcher,” said Karolinska Institutet Rector Ole Petter Ottersen.

Ottersen believes the case reveals critical deficiencies in the medical publishing process, and believes the journal did not make a critical enough assessment before it published the article. He believes they should introduce stricter controls for submitted articles and for verifying identities.

“A publishing system that allows papers to be published under false identities and affiliations might easily foment distrust of the medical publishing process and of research in general,” Ottersen wrote in a blog post about the issue.

This mysterious person has also been found to have been active in vaccination debates before, including about Pandemrix (used for swine flu) a few years ago.

Ottersen was appointed to KI record to restore the university’s reputation following the much-discussed Macchiarini case. In this case, a surgeon named Paolo Macchiarini who worked at KI was accused of scientific misconduct, partly as a result of failing to report the complications and deaths that occurred after a type of surgery he was promoting. Karolinska Institutet was criticized for its handling of Macchiarini.

Was withdrawn

When first notified of the problems with the article, the journal responded by adding a comment about the issue. Now the journal has withdrawn the article, according to the Retraction Watch website.

This same person has published three other articles on the alleged risk of vaccines, all of which are now going to be withdrawn by the publications that published them, according to the Retraction Watch website.

The article in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics was entitled “Increased incidence of cervical cancer in Sweden: Possible link with HPV vaccination”.

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Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no.

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