The following are examples where editors of medical journals have criticised their own and/or the pharmaceutical industry:
Dr Marcia Angell – former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine
It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of TheNew England Journal of Medicine.
Richard Smith – former editor (for 25 years) of the British Medical Journal and for 13 years of the BMJ Publishing Group
…research misconduct is common, terrifyingly common.
What is also highly unsatisfactory is how hundreds of studies (and probably many more) that are fraudulent remain in the scientific literature without any signal that they are inventions. I’ve been involved closely with two fraudulent researchers who between them have generated more than a hundred studies that are not retracted. Science is failing in its duty to the public.
Fraudsters escape because of the incompetence of the institutions, whereas investigation and collection of admissible evidence is the daily job of the police.
It’s time, sadly, to criminalise research fraud.
Dr Richard Smith, editor of the British Journal of Medicine, admitted ghostwriting was a ‘very big problem’.
‘We are being hoodwinked by the drug companies. The articles come in with doctors’ names on them and we often find some of them have little or no idea about what they have written,’ he said.
Richard Horton – Editor of The Lancet
Journals have devolved into information-laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry.
The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.
The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world.
Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale.
Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent, endpoints that foster reductive metrics, such as high-impact publication. National assessment procedures, such as the Research Excellence Framework, incentivise bad practices. And individual scientists, including their most senior leaders, do little to alter a research culture that occasionally veers close to misconduct.
Drummond Rennie – former Deputy Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
It has been clear for at least two decades that, when clinical researchers have a financial stake in the results, it opens the door to a pervasive distortion of science. When a drug company sponsors a trial, the company employees usually select the drug tested, its dose, and the comparison drug. Company employees design the trial, often to produce the result they desire rather than to answer a scientific question. They have a powerful and fateful role in managing the trial, sometimes stopping it for reasons unrelated to science and despite any commitment to the trial participants. They may even suppress the results completely. … In addition, they collect and analyze the data, and write up the report. In other settings, companies may “ghost-write” favorable meta-analyses of clinical studies. Only after the design, methods, and results are completed may the academic “authors” be selected and paid to have their names on the byline, thus joining in all but name the marketing arm of the sponsor. And authors frequently ignore the requests of editors to disclose their financial ties.
For journals publishing reports directly applicable to the care of patients,..the distorting effect of money represents by far the single biggest challenge to the system’s integrity. … the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has been emasculated. As a major new stream of funding for the FDA’s critical roles of oversight and protection of the public’s safety and health, the FDA has, since 1992, charged a pernicious user fee, which requires that companies seeking FDA approval pay the FDA to evaluate their drug applications. Congress has continued to reauthorize the relevant act. Predictably, this has had the effect of guaranteeing that the FDA, set up to protect the public, ends up beholden for its operating budget to the very industry the agency is supposed to regulate.
The main point of the seeding trial is not to get high-quality scientific information: It is to change the prescribing habits of large numbers of physicians. A secondary purpose is to transform physicians into advocates for the sponsor’s drug. The company flatters a physician by selecting him because he is “an opinion leader” and incorporates him in the research team with the title of “investigator.” Then, it pays him good money: a consulting fee to advise the company on the drug’s use and another fee for each patient he enrolls. The physician becomes invested in the drug’s future and praises its good features to patients and colleagues. Unwittingly, the physician joins the sponsor’s marketing team. Why do companies pursue this expensive tactic? Because it works.
Meta-analyses on antihypertensive drugs and with financial ties to one drug company are not associated with favourable results but are associated with favourable conclusions.
Jerome P. Kassirer M.D. – former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine
Very distinguished academic highlights blatant conflicts of interest by members of the panel who recommended statins as primary prevention in the USA, while independent studies found no benefit.