Thursday, February 2, 2012

More on Journal Reviews Paid For by Pharma

A little while back I posted this commentary/summary of an item from Marilyn Mann's Blog:

At the time, I drew some unflattering conclusions about the journal (Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine) and its editor and authors, based only on the review of a single article. Making up for my sloppiness and laziness now comes Kevin Lomangino in a guest post on the Health News Review blog:

Mr. Lomangino took the time to dig into a number of articles this journal printed, and to compare the conflicts of interest disclosed in the journal to information now available on the ProPublica "Dollars for Docs" database. Not surprisingly, he found a lot of people writing enthusiastically about drugs for companies with whom they had significant financial ties, and often not reporting same in the journal article.

The conclusion Mr. Lomangino leaves us with is the impression that I had on reviewing the single article on fibrates, only now backed up by more searching--which is that Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine is basically what's known in medical jargon as a "throwaway" journal. A throwaway journal is a journal that's not peer reviewed and generally not indexed in the National Library of Medicine's Medline/PubMed system. It's advertising pure and simple. The articles are generally written by spokespersons for the companies; they are lavishly illustrated with nice color graphics; and the journal is sent free to physicians. Such journals are totally funded by industry.

The problem with Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine is that while it seems to walk, talk, and quack like a throwaway journal, it is disguised as a real journal. They have somehow concocted some sort of peer review process, and the journal as I noted before carries the imprimatur of the American College of Cardiology. And the journal is listed in PubMed.

Physicians have traditionally known exactly what to expect from "throwaway" journals, but that doesn't mean that they don't read them. The articles are generally much more snappily written than the stodgy pages of real medical journals (who can't afford to hire professional writers), and the pictures look pretty, and the information is often fed to docs in highly useful nuggets for the busy practitioner. Again, a very smart and profitable industry doesn't waste money on marketing that doesn't work. So I suspect that Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine is widely read in the field despite having all the distinguishing marks of advertising pure and simple. (If anyone attached to this journal is trolling the web for mentions of their product, and wants to comment on or rebut these statements, be my guest.)

1 comment:

SteveBMD said...

I'm concerned that the problem is not restricted to the throwaway journals. Many "respected" peer-reviewed journals allow authors to pay extra for open access to their articles (e.g., on the journal's website), attracting more eyeballs than simply those readers fortunate enough to have university library access. It's something I've noticed in my own field.