The medical literature is increasingly inaccurate. That's the sour conclusion of peer-reviewed journal editors and reporters at the subscription-only Wall Street Journal. The rate of article withdrawal has increased 15-fold lately, with more than 200 retractions so far in 2011 alone. Citing data from its own arch rival Thomson, the Murdoch newspaper reviewed examples of notorious scientific articles that were later retracted. Career pressures in academia are cited as the prime reason for mistakes. The silver lining? Some experts say the scientific community may be getting better at detecting problems. The roles of industry pressure or deliberate fraud aren't explicitly explored. Retraction Watch is a blog devoted to the topic; one of its authors is a Harvard-trained physician.

Philadelphia patient recruitment firm Acurian is using a system with elevated IT security from Oracle. In a news release about the importance of strong data encryption, Andrew Fichter, Acurian’s chief privacy officer, had this cheerful observation: “Data breaches can damage a brand’s image, lower a stock’s value, and make the community-at-large very uneasy. Between international and social media sources, news travels to an information savvy public at blinding speed. Even the slightest affront to the public trust can go viral before a company has a chance to gauge its potential impact. It has the same effect as a contaminated product.”

Novella Clinical hired Michael Boyd as global head of clinical reporting. He'll run the Durham, North Carolina contract research organization's biostatistics effort in the U.S. and several other countries. He previously worked at Inc Research and PRA International. Here's a newspaper story.

FDA may loosen the conflict-of-interest rules for its advisory committee selection process. The goal is to allow more industry participation. About a quarter of the slots on the agency's advisory committees are vacant. Anti-industry activists are concerned. Here's a trade publication article.

Cancer Trials Australia, a nonprofit oncology trial management organization based in Victoria, announced a partnership with India's Clininvent. Beyond new cooperation in Australia and India, the details of the arrangement are murky.

Parexel reported quarterly financial results. Service revenue rose five percent, to $310 million. Profits fell 112 percent, to a net loss of $1.5 million. The gross margin on the CRO's main clinical services division fell by 18 percent, to 29.2 percent, but the profitability of other activities has not been so affected. While the Boston-area firm did notch major wins of late, including a two-year deal with Pfizer, it's not clear to Wall Street analysts if any of the top-tier CROs will be able to bear the long-term costs of research staff any better than the sponsor firms that are aggressively shedding such folks. The company is optimistic. "We will achieve a restoration of our profitability over the course of the year, as productivity starts to improve and as a variety of initiatives and the previously-announced restructuring bear fruit," said chairman and CEO Joseph von Rickenbach.

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