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Medical Journals Reliance on Drug Companies

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Medical journals are no more than “an extension of the marketing arm of pharmaceutical companies” because a large proportion of their revenue comes from drug advertisements and reprints of company funded trials, claims former BMJ editor, Richard Smith.

Dr Smith, who is now chief executive of UnitedHealth Europe has argued that the medical journals sizable incomes from drug advertising is basically an incestuous relationship. He states that the drug advertising is a “corrupting form of dependence” on the industry since the advertisements are “there for all to see and criticize” (PLoS Medicine 2005;2:e138; www.plosmedicine.org, doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020138).

However, Dr. Smith’s critcism do not end with advertisements. He further levels criticism
at the fact that journals publish clinical trials that are funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Unlike advertisements, trials are seen by readers as the highest form of evidence, he says. Trials funded by drug companies rarely produce unfavorable results and make up between two thirds and three quarters of the trials published in key journals.

This view by Dr. Smith may be especially enlightening given the recent showing that Merck failed to give the New England Journal of Medicine all relevant facts related to its VIoxx study.