Statin critic accused of image manipulation in earlier research


By Larry Husten

9 Feb 2018

A journalist who has been a frequent critic of statins has been publicly accused of scientific misconduct involving image manipulation in an earlier research paper.

Maryanne Demasi is a former ABC Catalyst presenter who has a PhD in Rheumatology from the Royal Adelaide Hospital in South Australia. She has been a frequent critic of statins following her controversial Catalyst report, a proponent of low carb diets and gluten-free diets, and has added fuel to the firestorm linking mobile phones to brain cancer.

The current controversy exploded on Twitter in response to a recent paper by Demasi published in the British Journal of Sports MedicineStatin wars: have we been misled about the evidence? A narrative review.

Darrel Francis, the British cardiologist behind the ORBITA trial, led a tweetorial which refuted large portions of the paper, including the preposterous statement that statins will have total sales of $1 trillion dollars by 2020.

A reader then alerted Francis to Retraction Watch article about a 2003 paper by Demasi in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, based on her PhD dissertation, for which an expression of concern had been issued last year. Francis then posted images from the paper showing inappropriate manipulation and duplication of images.

Francis explained to me the reason for his attack on Demasi: “The anti-statin movement is driven by general discontent at being made to take medication when one feels well, whipped up by demagogues who catalyse negative beliefs. Maryanne has been a particularly potent one because she writes fluidly and skillfully.

I always note the disconnect between her writing skill and her surprising inability to grasp even simple arithmetic.”

On Twitter Demasi accused Francis of “character assassination.” She went on to say “we are confident of complete vindication in relation to this matter which we view as vexatious and misconceived.

There is a confidential process for adjudication that needs to be respected therefore, I shall not comment further on this matter.”

In its story last year Retraction Watch reported that Demasi “came under heavy fire in 2016, after a controversial segment suggesting Wifi could cause health effects. As Michael Slezak wrote in The Guardian:

Catalyst committed many journalistic transgressions. And all of them would be blunders in any field of journalism. They didn’t declare that interviewees had serious conflicts of interest, for example.

They conflated different categories – high-risk and low-risk patients, different types of radio frequency radiation, and so on – and allowed viewers to assume that what was true of one, was true of the other. And most of all, they simply failed at showing good judgment.


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