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Merck Created Phony Peer-Review Medical Journal 213

Posted by timothy
from the do-they-meet-atop-the-space-needle-or-what dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Don't believe everything you read on the internet is a good rule to follow, but it turns out that you can't even believe a 'peer reviewed scientific journal' as details emerge that drug manufacturer Merck created a phony, but real sounding, peer-review journal titled the 'Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine' to publish data favorable to its products. 'What's sad is that I'm sure many a primary care physician was given literature from Merck that said, "As published in Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, Fosamax outperforms all other medications...."' writes Summer Johnson in a post on the website of the American Journal of Bioethics. One Australian rheumatologist named Peter Brooks who served as an 'honorary advisory board' to the journal didn't receive a single paper for peer-review in his entire time on the board, but it didn't bother him because he apparently knew the journal did not receive original submissions of research. All this is probably not too surprising in light of Merck's difficulties with Vioxx, the once $2.5 billion a year drug that was pulled from the market in September 2004, after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in long-term users resulting in payments by Merck of $4.85 billion to settle personal injury claims from former users, but it bears repeating that 'if physicians would not lend their names or pens to these efforts, and publishers would not offer their presses, these publications could not exist.'"
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Merck Created Phony Peer-Review Medical Journal

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  • by asifyoucare (302582) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @02:15AM (#27803979)

    I'd be very surprised if the ACCC did not investigate. Looks like a slam-dunk case under s 52 of the Trade Practices Act.

    • Oh no. They will get a fine far less than the money they made doing it, which is corp-speak for "please keep doing it." None of the executives will get any time. None of the doctors involved will get a reprimand, heck, this is just an advertisement that they play ball. On to the next corporate gig.

      • by !coward (168942) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @02:40AM (#27804065)

        Apparently the mods had a good night out.. Every single comment so far has been moded "Funny". And I'm pretty sure most of them weren't. A poster further down suggests that we may be dealing with shills.. But I shudder to think that slashdot is such a high-profile news site for drug companies, that they'd bother. So I'm going with drunk/stoned or otherwise giddy mods getting their rocks off.

        Hmm.. "2009 A H1N1 flu" (or whatever it is that they've decided to call it) doesn't mess with your brain like that, right? Heh, not to worry -- if they are infected, I'm sure it won't spread.. Who're they gonna infect from their Mom's basement anyway? (bad taste? too soon? ok, I apologize.. carry on)

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Perhaps not in this case. After all it is not just one fake article but a whole journal of fake articles distributed upon a regular basis. So a team of marketing/PR scumbags worked upon the rag on a regular basis, a real act of conspiracy to defraud and mislead the public. The intent is just so far beyond the pale that criminal prosecutions and jail time are well and truly warranted.

        Any government that lets this sort of extreme deceit to pass unnoticed is really betraying the trust that the voters placed

    • That would be down to whether or not their lobbyists have been bribing the right people in the right positions, or whether they have the goods on the people making the decisions.
    • by Maelwryth (982896) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @04:50AM (#27804529)
      The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery [ejbjs.org] might not be very happy about this as well. Especially as their slogan is, "Excellence through peer review". :)
  • Does it ever work? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShanxT (1280784) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @02:21AM (#27804001)
    Has any company ever gotten away with stuff like this in recent times? Doesn't the availability of everything on the Internet ensure that someone somewhere, doing just a little research, will call 'bullshit' when a certain journal/reviewer goes overboard in praising just one company?
    • by Airw0lf (795770) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @02:59AM (#27804143)

      Has any company ever gotten away with stuff like this in recent times? Doesn't the availability of everything on the Internet ensure that someone somewhere, doing just a little research, will call 'bullshit' when a certain journal/reviewer goes overboard in praising just one company?

      The problem is that companies never get more than a slap on the wrist for pulling stunts like this - commercial regulatory bodies in most countries are far too easy on them. As a previous poster said, it is usually a token fine and none of the executives ever get jailed. So I guess most companies do a simple calculation along the lines of:

      Profit = Initial Sales from Lies - Estimated Fine when Caught - Dip in Sales from Bad Publicity.

      It would seem that the "Profit" term still comes out as a big number so there is no real disincentive there unless regulatory bodies clean up their act, or the public starts voting with their dollars in a significant fashion.

      • Agreed.

        I've already begun to do this. I look for doctors who prescribe drugs only as a last resort. If they offer me a sample of something to try, I know that I've just become a guinea pig for a drug that the doctor received from a marketing campaign - and he probably didn't read the studies that vetted the drug in the first place.

        With regard to Merck, it looks like this:

        "Gosh, we pretty much own every G8 legislature, especially the US Congress, we're the largest lobby in the world, with some of
    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @03:45AM (#27804291)

      Has any company ever gotten away with stuff like this in recent times?

      Yes, I established an advertisement disguised as a medical journal for my company that hasn't yet been outed as a shill. It's called...

      Wait... you clever bastard, you almost had me with that one.

  • Holy crap. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@palegr a y .net> on Sunday May 03, 2009 @02:23AM (#27804007) Homepage Journal
    I've seen a lot of seedy stuff in my time, but this might just take the cake with respect to all-time industry lows. To hell with the music industry; this is beyond reprehensible. They're playing with peoples' lives. Somebody please tell me someone's going to jail for this.
    • by oldhack (1037484) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @02:31AM (#27804035)
      Careful, son. You know not the power of the evil you're belittling.
    • by spun (1352)

      Corporations are people like you and I with a right to free speech. Merck is just presenting the scientific facts that are important to them. The so-called scientific method is just a cultural idea, not the final arbiter of 'Truth.' What is truth? Isn't it 'true' that Vioxx may have helped people? Isn't it 'true' that it didn't kill everyone?

      The doctors are just looking out for themselves, and if they didn't do it, someone else would. And people's lives? Really now. You have to break a few eggs to make an o

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jonbryce (703250)

        You have a right to political free speech, but you do not have a right to commercial free speech. You also don't have a right to tell lies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        >>>Corporations are people like you and I with a right to free speech.

        The *People* have a right to free speech. The corporation does not. It has no more right to free speech than a rock. If the Merck CEO wants to publish things in his own name (with jail-time if it turns-out his lies led to deaths), that's fine but Merck the soulless entity does not have rights. Only individuals have rights.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alvinrod (889928)

      I suppose it's fitting that you've been modded funny considering that if anyone does actually go to jail for this it won't be anyone actually in charge or ultimately responsible. Rich people [wikipedia.org] don't go to jail. If they do somehow end up in jail, it's not the jail you or I would end up in [wikipedia.org] under similar charges.

      The only real way to hurt these assholes is to completely boycott their company and products and tank their company. Of course that doesn't guarantee that they won't land on their feet, but anything else

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, *all* of the Vioxx users I know are suffering from the forced boycott. See ... Vioxx isn't all that bad. The risk of death was pretty low compared to living in pain all the fucking time. But no, only talk radio mentioned that part. There are literally millions of people suffering now who would be willing to take the chance of death to be able to live again.

        I know, the solution is government health care, with absolutely no accountability at all. It fucking near killed me. Trust Obama with the foreign p

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ArghBlarg (79067)

          You know what, it's great that some people you know were helped by Vioxx. That's honestly great.

          But that in *no* way excuses the fact that, due to the drug company's *blatant lies* about the possible effects that it may have, some other people you DON'T know, may have FRICKING DIED from Vioxx.

          But hey, if the people who were baldly deceived by drug companies' LIES and died/suffered as a result were all people YOU DIDN'T KNOW PERSONALLY, then that's totally OK I guess.

          The fact the company had to make a whole

        • Re:Holy crap. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by blackest_k (761565) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @08:36AM (#27805325) Homepage Journal

          I don't know about Vioxx, but perhaps it's not the only drug out there that can help, or maybe the only one your health insurance company was willing to pay for.

          My niece sufferers from junior rheumatoid arthritis, within a year of the symptoms first appearing she was in a wheelchair, eventually she managed to see a specialist who put her on to a new drug treatment and very rapidly she went from being wheelchair bound to being a healthy and normal teenager.

          The treatment requires 2 injections a week at a cost of £500 a week, luckily this is in the UK and its paid for by the National Health Service, a system we all pay into from our pay packets. If she had been under the American system would she have this drug or would she still be in constant pain in a wheelchair? It took a year of trials of various different medicines before she was prescribed something effective but she has it now and will continue to have it for as long as its needed.

          America is a great country but the health system is a complete disgrace. Hopefully Obama will address this issue.

        • Misrepresentation (Score:3, Insightful)

          by aepervius (535155)
          Most if not all socialized medicine care DO NOT use civil servant for health care. They use real doctor and nurse that they pay off fater the care has been done. Such doctor have as much incencitive to do their job good as they do in a private health care concept as the US, but with the added benefit that the centralized healthcare allow for bigger cost reduction on the masses. Whereas private health care, unless in the hand in a very few, will only be a set of balkanized private area.
    • Re:Holy crap. (Score:5, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @02:37AM (#27804061) Homepage Journal

      I've seen a lot of seedy stuff in my time, but this might just take the cake with respect to all-time industry lows.

      How about drug companies treating thousands of doctors to a free night out in a posh restaurant every week for years, so that they can be informed about the latest products.

      • by jackbird (721605)
        There's no overt deception in buying a doctor a steak. A doctor presumably has not recently fallen off a turnip truck and can recognize a sales pitch as such, and is also not unable to afford such things on their own. This is FAR more insidious and unethical.
    • by bennomatic (691188) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @07:05AM (#27805013) Homepage
      You're right. You know what? I'm canceling my vacation to Australasia in protest!
  • Revolting! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kotoku (1531373)
    I am nearly speechless. This is honestly one of the most revolting acts of subterfuge I've ever seen committed on the American People (well..other than our current issues). Merck creates phoney studies so they can pass potentially unsafe drugs to the masses?

    They should be run out of town for this. Sadly I see nothing major happening to them.
    • Well now... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by toby (759) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @03:14AM (#27804195) Homepage Journal

      Who's to say only the "American people" got fucked over? It's usually the rest of us.

      When some greedy corporation in the US gets the urge to over-reach common sense in the name of profit, people die. Hello Halliburton, [agonist.org] Blackwater - sorry, "Xe" [truthnews.us] - Merck, Chevron, [ecoworldly.com] Shell, [globalresearch.ca] Union Carbide, [american.edu] Monsanto [i-sis.org.uk] - This is going on all around you, every day. It's just the kind of business y'all have been trained to tolerate, encourage and sponsor. And let's be frank, the absurd US military budget is largely what it is so that they can keep doing it with impunity. Nice little system.

      If a corporation is legally a person, then let them be shut down and incarcerated like the murderers and thieves they are.

      • Re:Well now... (Score:5, Informative)

        by G-Man (79561) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @04:19AM (#27804433)

        Umm, you are aware that Shell is a *Dutch*, company, right? Getting a little blood on your hands for a few extra dollars/pounds/yen/euros/whatever is hardly just an American corporate phenomenon. TotalFinaElf was plenty happy to develop oil fields for Hussein under the utterly corrupt Oil for Food program, while ordinary Iraqis starved. Toshiba illegally sold submarine propeller tech to the Soviet Union. Shall we even get started on Chinese companies and food safety?

  • Other stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by guyminuslife (1349809) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @02:56AM (#27804133)

    My father, who is a psychiatrist, was looking over a medical journal one day and showed me an article where some researcher---in a study funded by one of the drug companies, I forget which one---had determined that whatever SSRI the company was peddling was effective against bipolar disorder. This had been a six-week trial.

    I didn't understand. My father explained to me that yes, SSRIs tend to be effective as short-term treatment for bipolar disorder, but that over the long term, they actually can make bipolar symptoms worse. So the study was cherry-picked: deceptive, because what is good in the short term can be bad in the long term. Many bipolar people get put on antidepressants, which are counterproductive. And doctors often go along with it, because the drug companies have been intentionally misleading them in publications.

    • Re:Other stuff (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oneirophrenos (1500619) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @03:11AM (#27804179)

      So the study was cherry-picked: deceptive, because what is good in the short term can be bad in the long term.

      This is why drugs oughtn't be marketed to patients. If an ad says a drug has fared well in a study, Joe Regular will assume it's automatically a good thing. He doesn't know a good study from a bad one, or whether a medical journal is reputable - or even exists. A physician has a far greater probability of distinguishing bullshit from actual facts than a layperson, though it doesn't of course always hold true.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Why is Joe allowed to choose his food then ?
        Deceptive ads are illegal, stupidity is still legal. As long as Joe can freely get all the good information he needs, but uses his own money to buy shitty drugs, I'm perfectly fine with that.
        • by jcr (53032)

          Why is Joe allowed to choose his food then ?

          Careful. Start down that path, and the next thing you know the pinkos will be demanding National Lunch Insurance to defray the cost of the approved foods.

          -jcr

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          Why is Joe allowed to choose his food then ?

          So you should be allowed to choose milk laced with melamine? Meat with salmonella? Rancid Starkist tuna [archives.cbc.ca]?

          The tainted Star-Kist tuna scandal

          Broadcast Date: Sept. 17, 1985
          What became known as "Tunagate" erupts after this Fifth Estate report airs on Sept. 17, 1985. The CBC's Eric Malling reveals that Progressive Conservative Fisheries Minister John Fraser had knowingly approved a million cans of rancid Star-Kist tuna for sale. Fraser ignored numerous reports declaring that the tuna with the "powerful smell" was unfit for human consumption. Star-Kist Canada Inc. and New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield were pressuring Fraser in order to protect the 400 jobs at the St. Andrew's, N.B., plant.

          Before Tunagate, Star-Kist, the largest employer in New Brunswick's Charlotte County, had enjoyed a 39 per cent market share. But that share collapsed to near zero following the scandal. The company eventually pulled out of Canada and the 400 employees at the St. Andrew's, N.B., plant lost their jobs.

          Just when and how much Prime Minister Brian Mulroney knew about the events leading up to Tunagate was never made clear. Mulroney initially said he knew about the decision to sell the tainted tuna but later recanted, saying he only learned about the affair when the CBC's The Fifth Estate story aired. Mulroney was also accused by the Opposition of not telling the whole truth when he told the New York Times he had fired Fraser as soon as he had heard of the affair. In fact, it had taken six days.

          Weeks after the Tunagate scandal broke, baseball fans booed Mulroney during the opening game of the American League championship playoffs in Toronto by chanting: "Tuna! Tuna! Tuna!"

      • by barzok (26681)

        This is why drugs oughtn't be marketed to patients. If an ad says a drug has fared well in a study, Joe Regular will assume it's automatically a good thing.

        I, for one, would love to see prescription drug advertising banned. The US and New Zealand are the only "developed" countries where it's not banned. I don't even understand the point - it's 10 seconds of hokey conversations about what it's for, followed by 20 seconds of "but you really ought to talk to your doctor about it, because it's got these mass

      • by cvd6262 (180823)

        A physician has a far greater probability of distinguishing bullshit from actual facts than a layperson, though it doesn't of course always hold true.

        As a PhD who has spent many evening hours explaining medical journal statistics to my physician brother, I would emphasize that last part. Medical schools in the U.S. train future professionals in the practice of medicine, not research. (I'm not saying one is better than the other.) Once I realized this, I started noticing all sorts of comments from physicians

        • As a medical school student in the U.S., we have probably as many if not more non-physician PhDs that are teaching us about their research topics (called "basic science") that do not have all that much for clinical applications in the first two years of medical school as we do physicians teaching us about highly-relevant clinical topics. There is a VERY strong push to try to get medical school students to go into academic medicine at the very least, if not do an MD-PhD program and become a full-time academi

    • It's like the old Pepsi challenge. Pepsi typically wins in the "sip" test, even among Coke fans. Why does Coke outsell Pepsi 2:1 worldwide, then? Well, drinking a whole can is a whole different experience from taking a sip.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Keep in mind that pharmaceutical companies don't have full freedom in the design of trials. It is, fortunately, a very highly regulated activity.

      This trial was probably reviewed by boards of experts and blessed by the regulatory organizations, who approved both the length of the study and the criteria for enrolment. A six-week study may very well produce misleading results, I couldn't comment on that, but it would not be the first time people defined stupid plans with the best of intentions. Typically trial

  • by Wheat (20250) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @03:33AM (#27804255) Homepage Journal

    Fosomax is a crazy drug, it stops bone turnover and in some cases has lead to patients having to have their jaw bone removed. That's nasty!

        """
        Raisor was told her jaw bone was going to end up in a bucket. "They took some out, took some out, kept taking more out," Raisor said.

        They tried to save what they could. They used a metal plate for reinforcement.

        It didn't work.
        """

    http://www.wave3.com/Global/story.asp?S=4911501&nav=0RZF [wave3.com]

  • I was skeptical about this this periodical since their "Bestiality" issue, which had the title headline: "Give a dog a bone."

    Bones? Joints?

    Oh, never mind, make up your own jokes.

  • by nysus (162232) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @03:43AM (#27804279)

    Just who the fuck can we trust these days? What makes these executives think they can act with impunity? Oh, right, they probably can. Yay, free market!

    • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Sunday May 03, 2009 @04:59AM (#27804561) Journal

      Yay, free market!

      Big pharma does not operate in a free market. They exist in a regulatory framework consisting of thousands of laws and regulations written primarily by their own lobbyists to raise barriers to competition.

      The more any industry is regulated, the more it will concentrate into fewer and larger organizations. Big companies can cope with the regulation, but the compliance costs drive smaller competitors out, or push them to be acquired by larger organizations.

      If you want to see a free market in medicine, the closest you get to it is Mexico, Thailand, China, or India. There's a reason why medical tourism is a rapidly-growing market.

      -jcr

      • by hazem (472289)

        Big pharma does not operate in a free market. They exist in a regulatory framework consisting of thousands of laws and regulations written primarily by their own lobbyists to raise barriers to competition.

        So... the pharmas are just shopping in probably the purest free-market, the buying and selling of congressmen, in order to make their own market less free to their advantage?

        Sounds like "free market" is not so free and very expensive to all but the richest of us.

      • by Dasher42 (514179) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @08:04AM (#27805169)

        The more any industry is regulated, the more it will concentrate into fewer and larger organizations. Big companies can cope with the regulation, but the compliance costs drive smaller competitors out, or push them to be acquired by larger organizations.

        That's an interesting observation, but I think it's actually the other way around. The more wealth concentrates, the more the elite will lean on the government to issue laws that secure their wealth, and tilt the odds in favor of their acquiring more. There is no non-disruptive way to hold this in check once this happens. You cannot legislate against money's corruption. People can be bought - period. This makes systems of political checks and balances incompletely, because wealth is power, power corrupts, and economic power is most other forms of power spring from.

        This is why I am absolutely in favor of redistribution of wealth. I approve of Norway's lack of a sharp division between rich and poor.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by radtea (464814)

          People can be bought - period. This makes systems of political checks and balances incompletely, because wealth is power, power corrupts, and economic power is most other forms of power spring from.

          This is why I am absolutely in favor of redistribution of wealth.

          So to avoid the corrupting effects of power you are in favour of giving some individuals vastly more power than they have now, to forcibly redistribute wealth?

          Personally, I'm in favour of legal and tax frameworks whose policy goal is to produce flat

      • The more any industry is regulated, the more it will concentrate into fewer and larger organizations.

        Like Ma Bell, Standard Oil, and the media companies of the late 90s?

        Oh wait, no, that was un/deregulated. Huh.

      • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @10:41AM (#27806053) Homepage
        I've been inside Chinese hospitals. You know how when you go in a hospital, it has "that hospital smell"? That smell is disenfectant, they're always cleaning inside. Took me a while to realize what wasn't right, but Chinese hospitals don't have that smell. You know why? Because nobody cleans them, they're freaking filthy. Doctors don't even wash their hands between seeing patients. I live in fear that one day I'll have to use Chinese health care. The practice of physicians prescribing unnecessary or even counterfeit medication is a thousand times worse than the USA. Pro tip: next time you use Chinese health care, tell them you'll pay extra if they give you the real medicine. When they say, "are you sure? it's a lot more expensive" assure them that you do indeed want the geniune article and don't mind paying.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by palegray.net (1195047)
      The free market has nothing to do with this. We still have criminal statutes for a reason, although regrettably no executives will go to prison for this.
    • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Sunday May 03, 2009 @05:03AM (#27804593) Journal

      Just who the fuck can we trust these days?

      Actually, you can trust most of the people you meet. Criminals and fraudsters are still a minority.

      My own policy is to trust people until and unless they show me a reason not to, and then I never trust that individual again.

      -jcr

  • Elsevier (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 03, 2009 @05:08AM (#27804607)
    The summary should mention that Elsevier published this. That's the shocking part... We already knew about Merck's lack of ethics.
  • I am ashamed to be a researcher.
    Scientific journals are built on reliability and reputation, if they are willing to squander it for a few extra bucks, the entire peer-review process is dead, and modern scientific advancement with it.

    • by feranick (858651)
      You shouldn't be ashamed. Who should be ashamed are the so called professionals that sold their name and reputation. You have the power to select the journal you submit to. They are not all the same. What a few bad apples do cannot be generalized to the majority of high quality, very respectable papers. BTW, I would refrain to call these phony journals peer-reviewed, when they clearly are not.
  • by jw3 (99683) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @07:20AM (#27805045) Homepage
    There are hundreds or thousands of journals with a fairly low standard. Even if they are not industry founded, they make it relatively easy for anyone to publish next to anything. I know of scientific institutions that have their own journals just so that the (lousy) researchers can publish *somewhere* and have a non-zero publication list.
    That said, it is also fairly easy to see how good a scientific journal is, especially to someone who reads scientific literature. The system is not perfect, but it is better than nothing, and relies on the number of times that a single article from a journal gets cited. This metrics spawns the "Science Citation Index" [wikipedia.org] (how often did I get cited?) and "Impact Factor" [wikipedia.org] (how often, on the avearage, an article from a given journal gets cited?).
    Think Google. This is exactly what the original google algorithm was using: number of times someone found an information useful / reliable as a measure of how relevant / important / interesting this information is. However, IF / SCI is much older than Google or WWW.
    Both indices can be misused or manipulated. Furthermore, they differ wildly depending on the area studied (in especially, medical journals have ridicoulously high impact factors) because of the different number of citations per article and article turnover rate. Finally, it can be really hard for a new journal to get a high IF because of preferential attachement -- scientists flock to these journals that already have high impact factors.
    Still, they are better than anything else.
    j.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This is exactly what the original google algorithm was using: number of times someone found an information useful / reliable as a measure of how relevant / important / interesting this information is

      Just had to correct a few things. Google's original algorithm is a variant of what is sometimes called an eigenvalue problem [wikipedia.org]. It's not quite the "number of times someone found an information useful" -- rather, it analyzes the linking patterns between webpages in terms of a recursive-sounding definition: "an important page links to other important pages".

      In science, there is an ongoing attempt to reform the use of impact factors [wikipedia.org], which are easily abused. Check out well-formed eigenfactor [eigenfactor.org] as an example.

  • by Mutatis Mutandis (921530) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @08:23AM (#27805255)

    It is not particularly outrageous in itself that a drug manufacturer should collect a few papers that report favourable data on its products, bundle them with a few adverts and some marketing materials, and hand them out at conferences and trade shows. This happens all the time and it does little harm because you know who the sponsor is, and of course that you should not expect full objectivity.

    The problem is in the disguise: Elsevier, a respectable publisher of scientific journals, apparently has a side business "Excerpta Medica", which states on its website that "Excerpta Medica Helps Pharma Companies Fulfill 2009 Pharma Guidelines with Elsevierâ(TM)s Physician and Patient Educational Content." In other words, Excerpta Medica is a marketing organisation that serves pharmaceutical companies. It seems highly unwise for a large scientific publisher to run a side business of this nature, which screams "conflict of interest" pretty loud.

    The moral figleaf is provided by the "2009 Pharma Guidelines", issued by the PhRMA. However, the PhRMA is essentially a lobby organization for the pharmaceutical companies. Being a lobbyist is not necessarily evil, and no doubt self-regulation can be a good thing, but nevertheless this figleaf is a bit too small to cover Elsevier's shame: Essentially Excerpta Medica is vowing to obey the moral standards defined by its own customers!

    The selling point, of course, is obvious: Elsevier holds copyrights to a vast amount of scientific publications, both journals and books, so it can churn out impressive compilations on demand. Or, as they put it on their website "we can leverage the resources of the worldâ(TM)s largest medical and scientific publisher."

    We can only hope that most of these publications will have been peer-reviewed earlier, but Excerpta's website also makes it clear that "authors take full responsibility for the content of their manuscripts" and the editor of the publication is "an outside expert". In other words, Elsevier lends it good name to promotional materials, but declines responsibility for their content.

  • Go Open Source (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sattwic (545957) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:23AM (#27805513) Homepage Journal

    Just as there is the Proprietary vs OS struggle in Software Engg., there is now a parallel in the field of scientific publishing.

    Open Access Journals [http://www.doaj.org/] are all about free scientific information instead of billions charged by these greedy ba$tard$.

    An article costs approx 10$ at publishers like elsevier/merck, which can, like, feed a whole family in my country for a full week!

    And the most outrageous part is that sometimes that article would be the result from research funded by my taxmoney and my government while elsevier just earns off it for (virtually) nothing!

    Die M$, Die Elsevier, Die Die

    Jai Ho Open Source!

  • by Slur (61510) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @01:22PM (#27807333) Homepage Journal

    Okay, that's just plain treasonous.

    If a company authorized by The People to do business for our benefit goes out and instead defrauds The People, then We have every right and reason to revoke their charter and relegate them to oblivion. And we should!

    Yeah, it would mean the loss of some jobs and revenue for the various entities in their web, but it will do more good in the long run. First, the talented people working for this shoddy operation would be freed up to pursue their own eithical enterprises, and second, it would set the proper example and scare the shit out of other companies that might be contemplating or engaged in similar kinds of folly.

    Honestly, this is an issue where a company didn't care that it might kill us all so long as they profited, and as far as I'm concerned that's no less than treason.

    End them. End them now.

When the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the plane, the plane will fly. -- Donald Douglas

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