Authors Retract Article About Websites That Sell Statins Without Prescriptions

An article in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety about websites that advertise statins to consumers has been retracted by the authors after one company mentioned in the article disputed the authors’ assertion that the company sold statins to patients who did not have a prescription. The news was reported on Retraction Watch.

Here’s the notice:

The following article from Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, “Direct to consumer Internet advertising of statins: an assessment of safety”, by Bethan Williams and David Brown, published online on 2nd February 2012 on Wiley Online Library ( and in Volume 21, Issue 4, pages 352–365, April 2012, has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor-in-Chief, and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to the inability to verify the accuracy of the data in Appendix 1.

According to Retraction Watch, Appendix 1 contained a list of 184 websites that appeared to have sold statins without a prescription.The journal’s editor told Retraction Watch:

A lawyer for a company specified in the appendix threatened a suit, claiming they never dispensed meds without a prescription.  We told the author we would back them, but we needed to see proof the website ever said that.  The authors had no evidence to back up their statement.

The corresponding author, of the paper, David Brown, of the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, told Retraction Watch:

We conducted our study in good faith; however, on publication, it was brought to our attention by one of the editors that the producers of one of the websites listed in the Appendix to the paper had indicated that the site was listed in error as offering statins for sale without a prescription.

We did not keep the original screen-dumps of websites at the time of our study (19th November – 23rd December 2010) and as we could not verify the inclusion of the website, we immediately agreed to retract the paper in accordance with the editor’s wishes.

I must stress that this was an honest error on our part; there never was any intention to mislead the journal or its readership. This stance was accepted by the journal editor.

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