Saturday, 19 January 2008

RE: 1) Grieve and 2) a thought to raise

There's an item on Aubrey Blumsohn's blog, just now, which is concerned with advertising in the BMJ:

BMJ advertising watch - 19 January, 2008

I was reminded how I had sent an email to Dr Fiona Godlee, the BMJ's editor, a couple of months back, in which I had raised a question on this point. I think my interest at the time was more specifically directed towards the question of academic freedom at journals such as the BMJ, but still. The BMJ didn't return my mail:

Subject: RE: 1) Grieve and 2) a thought to raise
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2007 22:15:17 +0000

Dear Dr Godlee,

I was interested to read recently that the BMJ had declined to publish an academic paper concerning the issues surrounding Smithkline Beecham's Protocol 329. The story is infamous, of course, and has had much ink spilt over it.

I read Healthy Skepticism's detailed, but somewhat dry, account with a raised eyebrow (Paxil Study 329). Indeed, it may or may not have been this that prompted my own less scrupulous, but altogether funnier analysis (if I may be so self-congratulatory), which regrettably none of those involved, including JAACAP, felt the need to comment on, when I mailed them an advance copy:

Ghost in the Machine

In any event, there are grave concerns over this matter, as there should be, and it felt odd that a journal of the standing of the BMJ should fight shy, particularly given your own comments with respect to "reputations for hire" and the whole ghostwriting thing ("Secrets of the Drugs Trials," Panorama, January, 2007), which I would have thought the BMJ would wish to make its position clear on. I understand that the reasoning for this reluctance to publish the paper was down to the legal cost of validating the claims made.

May I enquire as to the estimated cost of this validation process? Given BMJ policy on taking advertising revenue from pharmaceutical companies, perhaps you could also let me know how much it costs to place a full-page advert in the BMJ, these days? Does the BMJ offer preferential rates to certain customers, at all?

Best regards

Matthew Holford

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