Retracted publications in pharmacy systematic reviews




Retraction of Publication as Topic, Systematic Reviews as Topic, Ethics, Research, Pharmacy, Evidence-Based Pharmacy Practice, Publishing


Objective: Systematic reviews and other evidence syntheses, the pinnacle of the evidence pyramid, embody comprehensiveness and rigor; however, retracted data are being incorporated into these publications. This study examines the use of retracted publications in the field of pharmacy, describes characteristics of retracted publications cited by systematic reviews, and discusses factors associated with citation likelihood. 

Methods: Using data from Retraction Watch, we identified retracted publications in the pharmacy field. We identified all articles citing these retracted publications in Web of Science and Scopus and limited results to systematic reviews. We classified the retraction reason, determined whether the citation occurred before or after retraction, and analyzed factors associated with the likelihood of systematic reviews citing a retracted publication.

Results: Of 1,396 retracted publications, 283 were cited 1,096 times in systematic reviews. Most (65.0%) (712/1096) citations occurred before retraction. Citations were most often to items retracted due to data falsification or manipulation (39.2%), followed by items retracted due to ethical misconduct including plagiarism (30.4%), or concerns about or errors in data or methods (26.2%). Compared to those not cited in systematic reviews, cited items were significantly more likely to be retracted due to data falsification and manipulation, were published in high impact factor journals, and had longer delays between publication and retraction.

Conclusions: Further analysis of systematic reviews citing retracted publications is needed to determine the impact of flawed data. Librarians understand the nuances involved and can advocate for greater transparency around the retraction process and increase awareness of challenges posed by retractions.


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Original Investigation