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JAMA caught red handed failing to disclose conflicts of interest, just one week after new "crackdown" announced

Friday, July 21, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: medical journals, JAMA, conflicts of interest


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(NewsTarget) Last week, Journal of the American Medical Association Editor in Chief Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, announced she would be cracking down on researchers who did not disclose conflicts of interest with drug companies, but just one week later, there are already problems emerging.

A study linking migraines to severe heart attacks in women was published in JAMA Wednesday, before DeAngelis was informed by the Associated Press that all six authors had done consulting work for or received funding from companies that make migraine or heart treatments.

"I do believe that conflicts sometimes exist and should be disclosed, but I hope this issue does not get overblown by the media," said study co-author Nancy Cook, who admitted that Bayer once sent her "minor compensation" for a one-time consultation.

The makers of headache medicines Bayer, Advil and Tylenol have all sent research funding to Dr. Tobias Kurt, the lead author of the study, but he said the financial ties to the companies were not relevant because the study did not promote drug treatment; it simply noted a link between migraines and heart attacks.

DeAngelis disagreed, and said that the relevance of the financial ties were her decision to make, and added JAMA would have still published the study -- with the authors' connection to drug makers noted -- if she had been informed. She said such information is imperative for readers to judge the trustworthiness of the information they are reading.

"Authors should always err on the side of full disclosure," she said in a response to be published, along with a letter from the authors explaining their decision, in the next issue of JAMA.

DeAngelis' crackdown came after authors of a depression study were found to have financial ties with antidepressant makers, and another set of researchers failed to report their conflicts of interest in a study of cancer's link to arthritis.

According to DeAngelis, JAMA's requirements for disclosures of conflicts of interest are the most stringent in the industry, calling for the information to be received before articles are even accepted. Now, with this revelation, DeAngelis feels JAMA's reputation will suffer. "We'll get killed," she said.

Additionally, DeAngelis suggested that more disclosures would begin rolling in over the next few weeks as the intense publicity of this event causes authors to reconsider their decision to omit conflicts of interest. "Authors are going to see how dead serious we are," she said.

Former New England Journal Editor and renowned critic of drug company ties to medical journals, Dr. Jerome Kassirer, said it sounded like JAMA was being "sloppy." Consumer health advocate Mike Adams, a frequent critic of medical journals and conventional medicine, added, "The news here is not that JAMA is printing studies written by authors who may have been unduly influenced by drug companies, the news is that somebody noticed."

Adams added, "Corruption and influence in medical journals is so common that truly independent observers largely consider conventional medical journals to be little more than infomercials for pharmaceuticals. If you don't believe me, pick up a copy of JAMA yourself and take a look at the endless drug ads that sandwich their so-called scientific articles. Medical journals are the tabloids of conventional medicine."

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