Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fake Medical Journals

Like many other physicians, I get free medical journals. Not as many as I used to get, but still more than I have time to read. Every now and then, I get one that I've never heard of, and I wonder why I am suddenly getting it. Most of the time, I toss them without a second thought. Strangely, I never seem to receive another copy of those once-appearing journals. Maybe now I know the reason why.

It turns out that pharmaceutical companies have been coming up with their own fake medical journals (via Slashdot):
This time Elsevier Australia went the whole hog, giving Merck an entire publication which resembled an academic journal, although in fact it only contained reprinted articles, or summaries, of other articles. In issue 2, for example, nine of the 29 articles concerned Vioxx, and a dozen of the remainder were about another Merck drug, Fosamax. All of these articles presented positive conclusions. Some were bizarre: such as a review article containing just two references.
Things have deteriorated since. It turns out that Elsevier put out six such journals, sponsored by industry. The Elsevier chief executive, Michael Hansen, has now admitted that they were made to look like journals, and lacked proper disclosure. "This was an unacceptable practice and we regret that it took place," he said.
At least drug companies have stopped giving out free pens, notepads and other trinkets. Hopefully I'll never again have to see a sight as embarrassing as when I saw a physician carrying 8 bags loaded with drug company freebies at a meeting a few years ago. (Yes, she was Asian and female and probably shares the same gene that causes my mom to hoard free bananas from the hotel breakfast buffet when on vacation, but it's still mortifying.) Anyways, anything that decreases drug company influence (and the need for a shame transplant) is good to me.