Medical Journal Editors Receiving Frequent, Large Payouts From Drug, Medical Device Manufacturers

A new report highlights how drug and medical device manufacturers, as well as other industries, regularly dole out large payments to medical journal editors, which could impact the content they publish. 

In a study published last week in the medical journal The BMJ, researchers suggest that payments by the medical industry to journal editors may be improperly influencing what studies get published, and ultimately erode public trust.

“For industry, publication in high impact journals bestows academic prestige and global attention to research and may speed regulatory approval, boost sales, and increase stock price,” Canadian researchers stated in the study. “Journal editors wield enormous power; they are the individuals who determine a substantial amount of the content and conclusions of what appears in their journals, including article selection, article content, and which articles have accompanying editorials.”

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The study looked at 52 influential medical journals in the U.S. from 26 different specialties, and also looked at the U.S. Open Payments database from 2014. The study included 713 editors at the associate level and above.

According to the findings, slightly more than 50% of those editors received some form of payment in 2014. While the median general payments were extremely low, some editors received thousands of dollars. Some editors from endocrinology journals received more than $7,200, the highest median general payments received by any type of journal. Cardiology editors were second with median general payments exceeded $2,600.

The study also notes that there were notable outliers, with two editors in 2014 receiving more than $1 million in industry payments. One editor with a cardiology journal received nearly $11 million, and another with an orthopedics journal received more than $1.2 million.

“Our finding that editors of high impact journals (in specialties such as cardiology, gastroenterology, and endocrinology) receive larger payments than the typical practicing physician of the same specialty should raise questions,” the researchers warned. ” While editors may not believe that financial payments from industry influence their judgments, there is evidence to suggest that all individuals are subject to subconscious bias from many kinds of influences that are much more subtle than money, the impact of which may be even more difficult to ascertain and self report.”


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