How Drug Companies Corrupt Medical Journals

Remember the tchotchke-cluttered doctors offices of old (i.e. a couple of years ago), with their Vioxx mugs, Viagra pens, stacked Xanax pads, and Lipitor key rings? Drug companies used to lavish doctors with all manner of branded trinkets in hopes they'd prescribe their products, but the whiff of corruption became too strong – was your doctor recommending Xenium on its merits as a gastrointestinal treatment, worried the ethics-minded, or in order to keep the Post-its coming? – and in 2008 they zipped up the goodie bag. Except that now "the $310 billion pharmaceutical industry quietly buys something far more influential," writes Harriet Washington in The American Scholar. That something would be "the contents of medical journals and, all too often, the trajectory of medical research itself," she says. For one thing, journals are chock full of (often inaccurate) pharmaceutical advertising; advertisers shape edit orial decisions; staff get buttered up by way of junkets and well-paid speaking engagements for editorial staff; and drug companies have perfected an array of strategies for using clinical trials to "tart up drugs that are poorly performing, dangerous, or both." All journals are bought – or at least cleverly used – by the pharmaceutical industry. Another calls the contents of most journals "little better than infomercials."

Julian Brookes, Rolling Stone

Related Links:
* Flacking for Big Pharma
Harriet Washington, The American Scholar