The General Medical Council has struck off a former research director for serious professional misconduct in the latest in a raft of cases involving allegations of misbehaviour in clinical drug trials.

Robert Davies, who was professor of respiratory medicine at St Bart's and Royal London medical school, and research director at the Royal Hospitals trust (now Barts and the London trust), was found guilty of covering up blunders in a study, asking a registrar to breach the study protocol and telling him he was 'finished' if he breathed a word. The registrar and a consultant reported their concerns to the then warden of the medical school, who carried out an inquiry.

His successor decided it was 'his duty without prejudice or pre-judgement, to report the findings to the GMC, in the belief that the GMC might wish to inquire further', according to a statement from the medical school.

This is a route employers should take more often, not only in the more obvious misconduct cases, but where doctors fail to measure up to standards of good medical practice, GMC president Sir Donald Irvine told the Bristol heart surgery inquiry last month.

Any default from the standards of good medical practice should automatically be a trigger to the GMC, if employers cannot handle it themselves, said Sir Donald.

'Huge numbers of chairmen and chief executives have been quite unaware of this and I still find that today.'

The GMC's timescale, however, hardly makes it a quick remedy. The hearing into the Davies allegations did not start until last month, even though the GMC was alerted in 1997.

Professor Davies resigned as research director at the time but didn't take early retirement until March 1999.