KSJ Tracker November 15, 2012

Meditation study that was retracted 12 minutes before publication (!) now reappears in a different journal.

Last year, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health claimed to find that Transcendental Meditation could reduce risk of death, heart attack, and stroke, and was associated with reduced blood pressure and stress in African-Americans with heart disease, according to a press release.

The study had the proper pedigree, with one important exception. It had been presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association. It was set for publication in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a journal published by the American Medical Association. And it had the NIH funding. The exception? The study came not from a traditional university, but from the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa. 

The paper was scheduled to be published online on June 27, 2011, but was withdrawn 12 minutes before its scheduled 4pm EDT publication--under mysterious circumstances.

Larry Husten of Cardiobrief, who reported the earlier withdrawal, now reports that the study is being published again, by a different journal, with data that doesn't agree with what was described earlier. "Some of the numbers have changed in important ways between the earlier and later publications," Husten writes. Husten raises all kinds of questions about the study, gets a comment from the editor of the journal, and asks an expert to comment on the study. And the expert finds it wanting. The study appears in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, published by the American Heart Association. 

Read Husten if you want more on the details of the study and the suspect statistics. Ivan Oransky at Retraction Watch has also taken notice of the republication, quoting Husten. Both marvel that the editor of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes was unaware of the paper's previous history. The paper "went through rigorous peer review, statistical review and editorial discussions," said the editor, Harlan Krumholz of Yale University.

I'm eagerly awaiting the rest of the story. Why was this paper retracted? Why did the data change? Why was it resubmitted to a different journal? And, the question readers will be asking: Does the trademarked Transcendental Meditation technique, popularized in the 1960s by The Beatles, reduce the risk of heart disease?

-Paul Raeburn


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