Pharma funding and publishing bias in High-impact journals
Journal BMJ has published the results of a case-control study titled “High reprint orders in medical journals and pharmaceutical industry funding”. The study analysed the extent to which funding and study design were associated with high reprint orders, and the financial implications of the same.
Reprints of published articles are seen as a potential valuable means of disseminating information. The pharmaceutical industry is thought to be the largest purchaser of reprints, which constitute the most common form of promotional material circulated among doctors, after gifts and sample medicines.
Since pharmaceutical companies may purchase from journals copies of articles funded by them, reprints may represent a possible source of conflict of interest leading to publication bias. Orders may be worth large sums of money and possibly influence the chance of a paper being published. This is particularly so as the present framework allows editors to be responsible for a journal’s finances apart from its content.
Also, studies sponsored by pharmaceutical companies are reportedly more likely to be published in journals with high impact factors, as against those without Big Pharma funding.
The study authors sought information on reprint orders from the Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine and BMJ. Of the five, only two – the Lancet and the BMJ – consented to provide the data. The researchers found that high reprint articles, irrespective of journal, were significantly more likely to be sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. Some of the reprint orders were substantial, equating to a large amount of income generated. Thus reprint orders could potentially be a source of publication bias, although the study was not designed with that in mind.