WASHINGTON—The fear of lawsuits is blocking efforts to purge the scientific literature of articles by psychologist Stephen Breuning that are based on fraudulent data. The National Institute of Mental Health concluded this spring that Breuning “knowingly, willfully and repeatedly engaged in misleading and deceptive practices in reporting results of research.” Although all journal editors who published Breuning’s questionable papers were sent copies of the NIMH report, only a few of the editors or the co-authors have considered, or attempted to publish, retractions.

Breuning’s misconduct involves more than 50 publications. A prolific researcher on the effects of neuroleptics on the mentally retarded, Breuning wrote more than one-third of the papers in his field from 1979 to 1983, according to NIMH’s Pharmacotherapy and Mental Retardation Bibliography, as well as several books on the topic.

The NIMH investigation concluded that many of those studies were never conducted. The Justice Department is expected to...

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