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Doctor Appeals Accusation of Fraud

October 3, 2000 GMT

BOSTON (AP) _ An eye doctor is fighting a proposed five-year cutoff of federal research funds by the U.S. Public Health Service, which accuses him of fabricating laboratory results, The Boston Globe reports.

The government says Dr. Evan B. Dreyer lacks the trustworthiness to be given federal research funds, the Globe reported Tuesday.

Dreyer, currently co-chairman of glaucoma service at the University of Pennsylvania’s ophthalmology department, has appealed the Public Health Service’s decision, and a hearing is set for Oct. 30.

Dreyer’s troubles stem from his work on a project aimed at finding the cause of a severe hearing disorder while he was a researcher at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

In 1995, Dreyer and another researcher agreed to study whether a sometimes-toxic amino acid called glutamate, which can cause the eye disease glaucoma, also might be the cause of Meniere’s disease, a cause of incurable deafness.

They decided to analyze fluid from the inner ears of guinea pigs that had a condition like Meniere’s disease. If the animals had lots of glutamate in their inner ears and normal animals didn’t, it would suggest that glutamate was the problem.

In order to get the National Institutes of Health to fund their work, they needed evidence that the experiment was feasible.

Fluid was extracted from the inner ears of 12 guinea pigs, 11 of which had symptoms similar to Meniere’s disease, and given to Dryer for tests.

The NIH eventually approved the grant proposal on the basis of data showing the level of glutamate was higher in the ears of the treated animals than the normal animal.

However, in December 1996, Dr. Michael McKenna, a Massachusetts Eye and Ear surgeon, concluded that the test results looked too consistent from one animal to the next. He went to the department head and Dreyer was asked to back up the data.

When Dreyer purportedly repeated his experiment, the new data was also determined to be fake, the Globe said.

Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard University, where Dreyer had been a professor, carried out their own investigations and concluded that Dreyer had committed misconduct.

A summary of the Public Health Service’s findings accused Dreyer of faking the data, engaging in a pattern of dishonest conduct with the intent to deceive, evading responsibility by blaming others and refusing to turn over documents he said supported his findings.

Dreyer and his lawyer, Anthony Feeherry, did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday from The Associated Press. Dreyer did not respond the Globe’s calls for comment.