Better transparency needed on medical journals' competing interests

October 26, 2010

Journals need to develop policies to handle the inevitable competing interests that arise when they publish papers that may bring them reprint revenue or increase their impact factors. This is the conclusion of a research article by Andreas Lundh and colleagues from the Nordic Cochrane Centre published in this weeks PLoS Medicine. An accompanying perspective by Harvey Marcovitch, ex-chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and an editorial from the PLoS Medicine Editors discusses this issue further, concluding that journals should apply the same degree of transparency that they require from authors, to themselves.

The article examined randomized clinical trials published in six general medical journals (not including PLoS Medicine but including New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the British Medical Journal (BMJ), The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, Archives of Internal Medicine, and JAMA,) over two time periods, 1996 and 2005, and assessed which of the trials were supported wholly, partly, or not at all by industry. They then used the online academic citation index Web of Science to calculate an approximate impact factor for each journal for 1998 and 2007 and calculated the effect of the published RCTs on the impact factor.

The proportion of RCTs with sole industry support varied between journals. 32% of the RCTs published in the NEJM during both two-year periods had industry support whereas only 7% of the RCTs published in the BMJ in 2005 had industry support. Industry-supported trials were more frequently cited than RCTs with other types of support; omitting industry-supported RCTs from impact factor calculations decreased all the approximate journal impact factors. For example, omitting all RCTs with industry or mixed support decreased the 2007 BMJ and NEJM impact factors by 1% and 15%, respectively.

Finally, the researchers asked the Editor of each journal about journal income from industry sources. For the BMJ and the Lancet, the only journals that provided this information directly, income from reprint sales was 3% and 41%, respectively, of total income in 2005.

The authors conclude that "journals [should] abide by the same standards related to conflicts of interest, which they rightly require from their authors, and that the sources and the amount of income are disclosed to improve transparency." Commenting on the article, Harvey Marcovitch agrees, saying "Journal editors have expended much time and effort in teasing out how to handle authors' and reviewers' competing interests. They need now to concentrate on their own and those of their employers". In the accompanying editorial "Increased Responsibility and Transparency in an Era of Increased Visibility" the PLoS Medicine Editors, who have posted their own journal's income on the competing interest page of the journal, conclude that "The internet has spurred an intellectual revolution in the dissemination of medical information. Journals have thus far been accepted as one of the most trusted sources of information. It's clear, however, that in order to maintain that trust, journals and editors need to continue to consider all the pressures that can arise in publishing and put in place robust, transparent procedures for handling all the potential conflicts that can arise, whether they are those of authors, editors, or the journals themselves.''
-end-
'Conflicts of Interest at Medical Journals' by Andreas Lundh and colleagues

Funding: No direct funding was received for this study. The authors were personally salaried by their institutions during the period of writing (though no specific salary was set aside or given for the writing of this paper).

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Citation: Lundh A, Barbateskovic M, Hrobjartsson A, Gøtzsche PC (2010) Conflicts of Interest at Medical Journals: The Influence of Industry-Supported Randomised Trials on Journal Impact Factors and Revenue - Cohort Study. PLoS Med 7(10): e1000354. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000354

IN YOUR COVERAGE PLEASE USE THIS URL TO PROVIDE ACCESS TO THE FREELY AVAILABLE PAPER: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000354

PRESS-ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: www.plos.org/press/plme-07-10-lundh.pdf

CONTACT: al@cochrane.dk

Related PLoS Medicine Perspective by Harvey Marcovitch:

Funding: No specific funding was received for this paper.

Competing Interests: The author declares no competing financial interests. He is employed by BMJ Publishing Group as a freelance associate editor. He is a director of the Council of Science Editors. The views expressed in this paper are his own.

Citation: Marcovitch H (2010) Editors, Publishers, Impact Factors, and Reprint Income. PLoS Med 7(10):e1000355. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000355

IN YOUR COVERAGE PLEASE USE THIS URL TO PROVIDE ACCESS TO THE FREELY AVAILABLE PAPER: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000355

PRESS-ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: Please contact press@plos.org for a PDF version of the Perspective article.

CONTACT: h.marcovitch@btinternet.com

The PLoS Medicine Editorial: Increased Responsibility and Transparency in an Era of Increased Visibility

Funding: The authors are each paid a salary by the Public Library of Science, and they wrote this editorial during their salaried time.

Competing interests: The authors' individual competing interests are at http://www.plosmedicine.org/static/editorsInterests.action. PLoS Medicine editors are paid a fixed salary (their salary is not linked to the number of papers published in the journal). PLoS Medicine's direct revenue from 2009 is as follows: Total income US$187,640.59 comprises US$ 179,220.00 in author fees, US$ 8339.81 of advertising and other revenue and US$80.78 in reprint revenues. PLoS's overall revenues for 2009 are listed in the 2009 Progress report http://www.plos.org/downloads/progress_update_lo.pdf.

Citation: The PLoS Medicine Editors (2010) Increased Responsibility and Transparency in an Era of Increased Visibility. PLoS Med 7(10): e1000364. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000364

IN YOUR COVERAGE PLEASE USE THIS URL TO PROVIDE ACCESS TO THE FREELY AVAILABLE PAPER: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000364

PRESS-ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plme-07-10-editorial.pdf

CONTACT: medicine_editors@plos.org

PLOS

Related Internal Medicine Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 news from Annals of Internal Medicine
In this Ideas and Opinions piece from the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the authors discuss the findings of early studies that addressed the use of chest computed tomography for the detection of COVID-19.

New COVID-19 content from Annals of Internal Medicine
Below please find links to new coronavirus-related content published today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Changes in internal medicine subspecialty choices of women, men
This study used enrollment data to examine changes in the internal medicine subspecialty choices of women and men from 1991 to 2016.

Do internal medicine residents feel bullied during training?
This research letter uses survey data to report on perceived bullying by internal medicine residents during training.

Annals publishes annual updates in internal medicine
Annals of Internal Medicine, the flagship journal of the American College of Physicians (ACP), has published summaries of the most important medical studies published in 2016 in the fields of general internal medicine, cardiology, hematology, endocrinology, gastroenterology and hepatology, rheumatology, and perioperative, pulmonary, and geriatric medicine.

News from Annals of Internal Medicine April 7, 2015
In the next issue of Annals of Internal Medicine are: Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig come out on top among commercial weight loss programs; Physical therapy as effective as surgery for lumber spinal stenosis; and Leading internists call for more thoughtful use of CPR.

News from Annals of Internal Medicine March 31, 2015
Articles include: USPSTF reviews evidence to update recommendations on iron supplementation and deficiency screening in pregnant women; New hep C treatments are cost-effective for some patients, yet may exceed insurers' willingness to pay.

News from Annals of Internal Medicine March 24, 2015
The US Preventive Services Task Force concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against screening for thyroid dysfunction in nonpregnant, asymptomatic adults.

News from Annals of Internal Medicine Feb. 10, 2015
Using Lung Imaging Reporting and Data System (Lung-RADS) criteria developed by the American College of Radiology to interpret low-dose CT lung screening results may reduce false positives compared to the National Lung Screening Trial, but the trade-off is reduced sensitivity, according to an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

News from Dec. 23, 2014, Annals of Internal Medicine
The Dec. 23, 2014, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine includes 'Blood pressure drugs likely to prevent stroke and death in patients with mild hypertension' and 'Task force reviews evidence to update blood pressure screening recommendations.'

Read More: Internal Medicine News and Internal Medicine Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.