SCIENTISTS who carry out fraudulent medical research would face criminal charges under new laws being considered by MPs.
The proposal is among a raft of measures to tackle drug company fraud being examined by a Commons committee.
Members have been told that misleading claims about the effectiveness of drugs have led to patients dying.
Whistleblowers have also received death threats. Norman Lamb, chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee, has written to each UK university to ask them to ensure staff who expose misconduct are protected.
The all-party committee has received testimony claiming prominent academics are paid large sums of money to publish false data.
Consultant cardiologist Dr Peter Wilmshurst, who submitted evidence to the report, said: “If someone was to falsify data about aircraft performance and planes started crashing they would likely face a criminal prosecution. But falsifying data about drugs is highly unlikely to lead to a sanction, even if it kills people.”
“The real scandal is the extent of this problem is covered up by senior people in the profession and major institutions.
“Regulators deal with it ineffectively even when people repeatedly offend but they do not seem to understand misconduct can lead to deaths of patients. It’s absolutely outrageous.”
Dr Wilmshurst, who is based at Royal Stoke University Hospital, started investigating misconduct 35 years ago when a drug firm offered him a bribe to falsify research on a drug with life-threatening side effects.
Lib Dem MP Mr Lamb said: “This evidence raises serious concerns about the failure of the system to protect patient safety.
“We need to have total confidence in the integrity of medical research.
“Regulators have to treat this with utmost seriousness and we will consider whether there is a case for new criminal offences.”