Abbott Laboratories sponsors review article on its own drug

A review article in a medical journal is an attempt to summarize the current state of research on a particular topic.  A review article does not present original research but rather collects and interprets the research that has been done, describes gaps in the research and controversies that exist, and how to apply the research in clinical practice.  A review article can be a good starting point to get a grasp of a topic.  However, because the authors are generally experts on the topic they are discussing, they often have a point of view that may not be obvious to someone not expert in the field. 

But what if the agenda for the article were out in the open?  What if, say, a drug company sponsored a review article on its own drug and paid a medical journal to publish it?  That appears to have happened with this review article on fibrates in a journal called Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine, published by MedReviews, LLC.  The acknowledgment discloses the following:

Abbott Laboratories, Inc., provided funding to MedReviews, LLC.  No funding was provided to authors.  Abbott Laboratories, Inc. had the opportunity to review and comment on the publication content; however, all decisions regarding content were made by the authors.

So, while it is unclear who produced the initial draft of the article, Abbott Laboratories reviewed and commented on the article before publication and paid the publisher for publishing the article.  Abbott just happens to sell two fibrates, TriCor and Trilipix.

Never having heard of this journal, I looked at the journal’s website and confirmed that it is a peer-reviewed journal and is indexed in PubMed and Medline.  It’s editorial board includes some well-known academic physicians.  The website also discloses that MedReviews has formed a partnership with the California Chapter of the American College of Cardiology.

I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone would want to spend their time reading a medical journal that publishes review articles that have such a high level of involvement from a commercial enterprise with a vested interest in the topic.  I’m also having a hard time understanding why the California Chapter of the ACC and the members of the editorial board would want to be associated with this journal.

H/T Harlan Krumholz.

Addendum January 7, 2012:  Howard Brody has weighed in on the Hooked:  Ethics, Medicine, and Pharma blog.

Addendum January 10, 2012:  Also see this post on Pharmalot blog.

Addendum February 3, 2012:  Also see this post by Kevin Lomangino on the Health News Watchdog blog and this followup post by Howard Brody.

Addendum August 16, 2012:  See this followup post by Kevin Lomangino on the Health News Watchdog blog.

Posted on January 5, 2012, in cardiology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. It’s a nice process of summarizing all current state of research for a particular topic A review article can be a good starting point to get a grasp of a topic.


  2. The question is not whether you get an overview..but whether that overview is leaning in a particular direction. There are very few articles published that don’t have _some_ level of bias [if you don’t think your interpretation of x was the right one, why go to the trouble of writing in the first place?]…but this does raise questions about editorial boards: shouldn’t they have some responsibility to tell the difference between advances in medical research and thinly-veiled press releases?


  3. I am surprised that you find this practice unusual. Medical education companies have worked with pharma for decades in publication planning and getting articles out that create buzz for their drugs. I dislike bias as much as you do, but this is simply not new.
    ICJME regulations have shifted, seemingly towards more transparency so perhaps you are seeing now what has been ongoing for decades. Companies may strive to satisfy ICJME requirements on disclosure and conflict of interest, but one might question whether those regulations go far enough. So now you see the disclosures more frequently than before. It reminds me of docs who say: “I have no conflicts. See I take support from everyone.”


  4. @rethoryke I agree with you the editorial board should have some responsibility here.

    @Laura I agree, pharma has been engaged in publication planning for decades, although formerly this was often hidden. A review article would be ghostwritten by the company, often with help from a MECC, and then an academic would be found to be the “author” of the article. However, in most cases the journal was not told that that was what was going on.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have access to this journal other than this one article (and am loath to pay for additional articles) but it appears that here the journal has a business model of seeking pharma funding for review articles. I do not believe a peer-reviewed journal should accept editorials and review articles that have that level of industry involvement.


  5. Francis Stuart

    The President of MedReviews LLC in New York is one of the most unethical people I have ever run across in my experience in medical publishing and will do anything to exploit the medical community for personal profit. The California Chapter of the AAC should investigate and reconsider.


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