When Medical Journals Are Big Pharma Infomercials

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/charlie_brown_in/4813687658/">Pranjal Mahna</a>/Flickr

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


The days when Big Pharma showered doctors with branded coffee mugs, pens, notepads, and other freebies ended in 2008, when many pharmaceutical companies voluntarily agreed to stop doling out drug tchotchkes in an attempt to curry favor. Now, the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry’s influence is more subtle.

A new article in the American Scholar notes that Big Pharma is quietly manipulating the contents of trusted medical journals. As the former editor of the British Medical Journal, Richard Smith, told writer Harriet Washington, “All journals are bought—or at least cleverly used—by the pharmaceutical industry.”

Below, a look at the American Scholar‘s findings:

First, it starts with heavy advertising—revenue that many medical journals need to stay in print. Then, drug makers leverage the financial power from their ad dollars to pressure journals into excluding drug research trials that show negative or ineffective results. It doesn’t end there, though. According to the American Scholar, many drug-reviewing experts published in medical journals are paid by drug makers. Reviewer’s bias, anyone?

Doctors rely on medical journals for the newest pharmaceutical research findings and unbiased scientific insight into their field. “When you are published in a medical journal, especially one of the top ones, this gives the article a certain imprimatur that makes people less critical,” says bioethicist Joel Lexchin. The American Scholar article notes that when these journals’ objectivity is compromised, doctors may believe that “medications in trials are more effective than they are.” Click here to read the American Scholar piece.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate