Omerta at JAMA

March 24, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

If you thought sociology journals don’t respond well to criticism, try the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A medical researcher, Jonathan Leo, at some obscure school in Tennessee (Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate) reads an article in JAMA about the use of antidepressants in stroke patients. He finds some flaws in it. He goes online and discovers that the author of the article has been on the payroll of Forest Laboratories, the makers of Lexapro and other antidepressants. He publishes a letter about this in BMJ (aka British Medical Journal).

Does JAMA welcome this revelation and vow to be more open when it comes to conflict-of-interest charges? Think again. Instead, they go all Goodfellas, as a matter of policy.
Medical Journal Decries Public Airing of Conflicts

The Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the world's most influential medical journals, says it is instituting a new policy for how it handles complaints about study authors who fail to disclose they have received payments from drug companies or others that pose a conflict: It will instruct anyone filing a complaint to remain silent about the allegation until the journal investigates the charge. (emphasis added.)

That’s from a story by David Armstrong in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. (The rest of the article is gated.)

Kathy G. at The G Spot has more information, though I’m not sure what her source is.

The editors at JAMA deny making these threats, but they are on record with their policy: don’t say nothin’ to nobody “while an investigation is under way.” JAMA’s investigation into the antidepressant matter had taken five months. When did it finally publish a correction and an acknowledgment from the author that he had received and not reported payments from Forest Laboratories? A week after Dr. Leo’s letter appeared in the BMJ.


mike3550 said...

Jay, this is um...disheartening to say the least! I am imagining the editorial offices of JAMA being something akin to the Sopranos...

There are a couple of other blogs at ScienceBlogs (here and here)
with a tiny bit more information, including Dr. Leo's response to the JAMA editorial. I thought that it was spot-on.

brandsinger said...

On the other hand, fellows, I ask you: Who in the pursuit of scientific truth hath no axe to grindeth? Objectivity is but an illusion. Paraphrasing the words of that great philosopher of science, Bobby Dylan. no matter who you are, "you've got to serve someone."