Japan’s health ministry said it will investigate claims that major pharmaceutical companies falsified data in an Alzheimer’s research study. Eleven drug companies including Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb were involved in a research project aimed at better diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, according to Agence France-Presse.

A former Tokyo University professor and project researcher involved in the study reportedly told Japanese health officials that the companies involved used false data in clinical testing for the $28 million study. A report in a Japanese national newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, said the paper obtained internal documents showing at least 4 instances in which drug companies tried to falsify data.

“After verifying the facts about these allegations, we will deal with the issue appropriately, setting up an investigation team if necessary,” a health ministry official told AFP. “If there really has been data falsification, that would be a grave problem, so we are investigating carefully,” said Health Minister Norihisa Tamura.

A Pfizer spokesman in Japan said the company did finance some of the research but did not employ any researchers. The study involves 11 drug companies and nearly 40 hospitals and medical organizations. Research began in 2007.

In the past, Pfizer has been accused of withholding drug risks. Last year, the company was hit with a string of Lipitor lawsuits by women taking its cholesterol and blood pressure-reducing drug. The drug has been linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes as well as musculoskeletal injuries and diseases.

The company also faced lawsuits for failing to warn consumers about the potential risks of its anti-depressant Zoloft, which has been associated with congenital birth defects. The suits alleged that Pfizer marketed Zoloft to pregnant women, knowing of the potential risk to developing fetuses.

“Unfortunately, these greedy drug manufacturers sabotage the scientific industry and turn clinical research into another marketing tool they control,” commented Daniel Nigh, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who practices in the areas of bad drug and defective medical device litigation. “They fund the doctors and scientists they know that will give them the results they want. Even worse, when the study does not give them the results that they want, they either try to falsify the data, make certain the study never gets published, or smear the authors personally if the study is published.”

Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.