Erosion of trust in medical journals

The editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association says that for the third time in three months, the Journal was misled by authors failing to disclose their ties to drug companies. This time it was in a study appearing in this week’s Journal linking migraines to heart attacks in women. All six authors of the study have had financial ties to drug companies making products for migraines or heart problems.

The Associated Press reports that “the authors said they did not report their financial ties because they did not believe they were relevant to the study.”

JAMA was burned last week when authors of a depression study failed to report their connections to drug companies making antidepressants. And two months ago authors of a study on arthritis drugs and cancer failed to fully disclose.

The engtanglement of conflicts of interest in the dissemination of health, medical and science news is worsened when journalists don’t question researchers about potential conflicts of interest, or when they take as gospel anything that is published in a journal. Consumers are hurt when there is not full disclosure. They’re not getting the full story. That’s why, on our HealthNewsReview website, we give an “unsatisfactory” score to any news story that fails to pursue questions of conflicts of interest in the sources used in a story.

This situation must change.

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T Young

July 21, 2006 at 10:52 am

I was surprised to see how many news agencies picked up stories about that particular study. It’s almost as if the wider media noticed the study because of the whole mess – not that they mentioned the conflict-of-interest issue anywhere when discussing the study results. The other studies in this issue of JAMA haven’t gotten anywhere near the same amount of coverage.
It’s almost as if JAMA coming forward has backfired and made the journal look like a bag full of idiots (which they are not), while the study and its authors enjoy the limelight. It merely reinforces the professional arrogance that led to the lack of disclosure in the first place.