Sunday, August 8, 2010

Peer Review and Pharmaceuticals

An interesting post on Laika's MedLibLog via Grand Rounds (Life in the Fast Lane).

A company called Elsevier, which publishes the Lancet among other journals, has been found, through a subsidiary, to do contract work for Merck--basically cutting and pasting reports that seem to be based on peer-reviewed literature, in favour of Merck pharmaceuticals. Their "journal," The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, contained articles most of which "presented data favorable to the Merck products Fosamax (for osteoporosis) and Vioxx." Vioxx was ultimately withdrawn from the market because of the proven danger it presented to patients.

This is only one example of Medical Education and Communication Companies (MECCs), doing lucrative contract work that is hardly more than shilling for the pharmaceuticals, but with a bit more scientific patina than ordinary advertising. Of course the companies in question think they keep this marketing work quite separate from legitimate medical research publishing, but is the Lancet as squeaky-clean as it used to be?

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