Recently, I joined the editorial board of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, the American Heart Association journal that focuses on quality of care and outcomes research. As my readers know, I became interested in cardiovascular disease because my daughter has heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disease that cause high LDL-cholesterol and can lead to premature heart disease. I wrote this perspective for the November issue on how engaged patients can help bring about positive change in health care.
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 August 16, 2012: See this followup post by Kevin Lomangino on the Health News Watchdog blog.