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More Fake Journals From Elsevier 249

daemonburrito writes "Last week, we learned about Elsevier publishing a bogus journal for Merck. Now, several librarians say that they have uncovered an entire imprint of 'advertorial' publications. Excerpta Medica, a 'strategic medical communications agency,' is an Elsevier division. Along with the now infamous Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, it published a number of other 'journals.' Elsevier CEO Michael Hansen now admits that at least six fake journals were published for pharmaceutical companies."
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More Fake Journals From Elsevier

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  • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:25PM (#27889047) Journal

    Interesting. This militates against the argument that the "imprimatur" of a publisher always adds to a journal's legitimacy, and is one more reason to ditch money-grubbing publishers for open-access journals.

    That is really a huge blow to the reputation of Elsevier... of course they publish hundreds (thousands?) of journals, so in absolute terms maybe it is not that big a deal, but still...

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:28PM (#27889065) Homepage Journal

    The journals seem to be intended to mislead the reader into believing that research and reporting has been done which has not. Does that not constitute fraud? Would there not be an option to have the publisher and the pharmacorp charged with fraud?

  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:4, Interesting)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:40PM (#27889155)

    I have a bad feeling that, as people start poking around, even more stories like this are going to be uncovered. Sure, Elsevier is admitting to six fake journals. What's the over/under for it being 20?

    Now, I wonder if Merck makes a drug to get rid of bad feelings like this. I'll have to check an Elsevier journal to find out.

    I'm not a doctor or any sort of medical practitioner. So, the following is just my personal opinion.

    The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most corrupt industries in existence today. I actually find pharmacology quite interesting, especially the idea that physical chemicals can impact the nonphysical/intangible mind. Seeing the way this industry operates made me decide some time ago that I can't in any good conscience join up with them, fascinating though the subject may be.

    There is one simple principle here: pharmaceutical companies cannot make any profit from healthy people. That's why you have so many "designer diseases" like Restless Leg Syndrome. Just think about how many people you know who do not regularly take some sort of prescription medication; they are becoming a minority. No one really questions this. No one with any sort of media presence is asking whether the fact that the general population is getting sicker and not healthier indicates that our medical system is fundamentally broken. Of course, you don't have to be much of a thinking man to realize that the media is not your friend, otherwise they'd ask questions like this and would go wherever the facts lead them, monied interests be damned.

    I was in my doctor's office once and I asked his staff a question. I asked her why it is that pharmaceutical companies advertise prescription-only medicines to the general public, since after all you are supposed to ask your doctor what is wrong and have that doctor determine what medicine you need. There's little room in that process for brand recognition on the part of the patient. She flat-out told me "because the pharmaceutical companies RUN this entire industry". I salute the honesty of her answer. I was half expecting some sort of "party line" on that one.

  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:02PM (#27889369)

    The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most corrupt industries in existence today. I actually find pharmacology quite interesting, especially the idea that physical chemicals can impact the nonphysical/intangible mind.

    Nonphysical intangible mind?

    Neurochemicals, man. Read about them. Any intro to psych course includes education on what a few of the major neurochemicals do and their role in defining who "you" are.

    Why do people insist on giving me the most simplistic of answers, always with the assumption that I never once came across them in any research on the subject? I'm not trying to complain so much as to point out that it's not necessary.

    To say that "the entire mystery is completely rendered moot by the concept of neurochemicals!" is the same thing as saying "I am a materialist." If you are so inclined, and if you find that satisfying, then good for you. Not everyone subscribes to the materialist worldview, and not everyone is willing to make the assumptions that are needed in order to honestly believe in it.

    In other words, to really give a satisfying answer to that mystery from a materialist perspective, you would have to flawlessly explain what consciousness is, precisely why particular arrangements of protons and electrons and neutrons bring it about, and why other arrangements of matter are not conscious (or for an interesting twist, why consciousness is an inherent property of all matter and highly ordered organisms are just a particularly refined expression of it).

    If you study pharmacology you will find none of those things. You mentioned neurochemicals. Go ahead and study them. What you will find is descriptions in terms of "well, when chemical X is ingested and reaches part Y of the brain, the patient reports Z." That does not begin to resolve any of the mysteries I mentioned. The explanations based on neurotransmitters, agonists, antagonists, receptors, etc. are just sophisticated forms of that same description. To begin to act like we have this all figured out is frankly rather silly. To think that you can answer the question I raised with the equivalent of a soundbite is to fail to appreciate the magnitude of this mystery.

  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:06PM (#27889395)

    Anyone paying attention to Elsevier is aware that they have a long history of deception. Whenever they buy a company in the USA through one of their subsidiaries, they routinely lay off everyone, claim they are "borging" the jobs into their other subsidiaries, while in actuality offshoring the jobs to Asia (to avoid paying any minor taxes into state re-training programs).

  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:10PM (#27889417)
    You think pharmaceutical companies are one of the most corrupt? You've apparently never worked in penal systems or residential care. I could tell stories, but only anonymously.
  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:5, Interesting)

    by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:35PM (#27889575) Journal

    There is one simple principle here: pharmaceutical companies cannot make any profit from healthy people.

    They also can't make any profit off the majority of sick people in the world, either, because those people have no money. That's how you get situations like this:

    We found that, of 1393 new chemical entities marketed between 1975 and 1999, only 16 were for tropical diseases and tuberculosis. (Trouiller et al., "Drug Development for Neglected Diseases: a Deficient Market and a Public-Health Policy Failure." The Lancet 359, no. 9324 (June 22, 2002): 2188-2194.

    (Ironically, I got that through ScienceDirect). Yet while the pharma giants won't focus R&D on neglected diseases, they'll also lobby against any attempts to set up alternative incentive systems designed to stimulate research into those disease... probably too afraid that the alternatives will be more successful than the current patent system, and people will start to wonder why more drugs can't be developed that way.

  • I worked for them... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nerdofthunder ( 1551099 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:46PM (#27889671)
    I spent a few weeks working for them at one of their warehouses. In the employee manual there were dates for Christmas, and Christmas Eve. The dates were the 25 and 26 respectively. If they can't even get the dates for Christmas right at a text book publisher, I don't want to know what else they fail at.
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:56PM (#27889773)

    Too big to jail? Corporation size could use some downward pressure.

    Depends, and what I said doesn't just apply to the likes of an IBM or a General Motors.

    Suppose you have a company of fifty people, and one of them does something illegal without the knowledge of the owner. Should the guy that built that business from the ground up, busted his ass for ten years, took out a second mortgage in order to meet payroll when times were tough ... should he be imprisoned for that one employee's misdeeds?

    I'm not arguing against accountability for upper management, but like most things there has to be a balance struck.

  • Re:Brain drugs. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:58PM (#27889805)

    I equate the working of drugs for the brain much like our current understanding of gravity.

    That's a very interesting parallel. It also comes from the materialist perspective. What we get for it is a theory of gravitation that is irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. That alone should tell us that we are missing something fundamental and need to question all of our assumptions, all of the things that we "know to be impossible." Quantum mechanics itself tends to disregard cause-and-effect. An unstable atom has X% chance of radiating a particle within a given timeframe. There is no explanation for why it does so, or for why it did so at that particular time and not earlier or later. It's a statistical model that made a departure from the natural philosophy which gave birth to it.

    There's something else we get for it, too. Most of our recent technological advances have been engineering breakthroughs. There has been little advancement of actual understanding by comparison. In my personal (unqualified) opinion, the medical industry has its own version of this. We're getting better and better at modifying the system, at obtaining desired results by the introduction of chemicals, without increasing our understanding of what disease actually is, how it originates, and how it can be prevented. Nowhere is this more obvious than in psychiatry. My evidence for this is very simple: if we understood these things, we should have a population that is getting healthier. Instead, we have a population that increasingly depends on medications because it is becoming sicker.

    I will tell you something else I truly believe, though I strongly doubt there is any way I could prove it to you. Real enlightened understanding is able to simplify things, to show how all of the observed complexity derives from a few simple principles. By contrast, our models are increasingly complex. Personally, I suspect that the reductionist worldview is at least partially responsible for that. There is absolutely no way to prove beyond a doubt that the reductionist approach is the One Correct Way to seek truth. In spite of that, it's the only approach used by mainstream science. I think that's a mistake when we are dealing with entities, organisms, and a Universe that are greater than the sums of their parts. I am reminded of that old cliche, "when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." If you're wondering why the ease with which these things can be pointed out still doesn't really change anything, it's because the power of institutionalization and orthodoxy to stagnate ideas is seldom appreciated.

  • Elsewhere Science (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gwjgwj ( 727408 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @03:32PM (#27890523)
    I used to call them "Elsewhere Science". Has it turned out to be a correct description?
  • Re:in their defense (Score:2, Interesting)

    by schon ( 31600 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @04:02PM (#27890709)

    R&D is not the only major cost involved with new drugs. Regulatory hurdles are enormous as well.

    Yes, but not as enormous as lobbyists and kickbacks to politicians [] or marketing. []

  • Re:And... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Froboz23 ( 690392 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @05:17PM (#27891385)
    I know one good thing that will come out of this. I'm blacklisting Merck.

    Before reading this article, I was neutral toward this company. I didn't really know much about them. But now I know they are not to be trusted. I will make my best effort to avoid using any of their drugs, and I will be wary if any doctor tries to prescribe a Merck drug to me. And more importantly, I will not own any of their stock. Just this week I was reviewing my stock portfolio to do some more dollar cost averaging into the market rebound. Merck is now purged from my portfolio, and I will keep an eye out for it in any index or mutual funds that I buy. They are now in the same list as Monsanto.

    I will also pass this article along to my fiends and co-workers. Hopefully they too will take this into consideration before buying their stock.

    The justification for not owning their stock is not just moral. It is an economic concern as well. If a company behaves this recklessly, it puts itself at economic risk, as already demonstrated by it's multi-billion dollar Vioxx recall.

    All major corporations are engaged in morally dubious behavior of one kind or another. But when it becomes this excessive and blatant, I have to draw a line.
  • Anonymous Coward (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @05:34PM (#27891537)

    The Atrophy Of Objectivity

    If I were to rate the corruptive tactics performed by big pharmaceutical companies during my intimate experience with them , the frequent and intentional strategy of implementing fabricated and unreliable results of clinical trials performed by others possibly tops the list.

    A list of corruptive tactics by the pharmaceutical industry that sponsors such trials. By this atrophy of the scientific method absent of authenticity that has been known to occur, harm and damage is possibly done to the health of the public.

    Most would agree that the science of research should be sound and as aseptic as possible- completely free of deliberate and reckless interference.

    However, it appears, money and increased profits can be a catalyst for disregard for human health with the clinical trial process that is largely unregulated.

    This is particularly a factor on post-marketing studies of various pharmaceutical companies, as some pharmaceutical corporations seem to be deliberately conducting nothing less than seeding trials- with about a 50 percent tax credit for these trial sponsors.

    Trials that are in fact pointless and void of scientific benefit.

    Decades ago, clinical trials were conducted at academic settings that focused on the acquisition of knowledge and the completely objective discoveries of drugs and devices to benefit mankind.

    Then, in 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act, Public Law 96-517,was created, which allowed for such places with their researchers to profit off of their discoveries that were performed for pharmaceutical companies and others in the past.

    Furthermore, such academic institutions were coerced to license patented inventions to those pharmaceutical companies that will then commercialize these discoveries paid for in large part by the taxpayers who funded this research to a degree.

    This resulted in the creation of for-profit research trial sites without any academic affiliation that are called Contract Research Organizations.

    CROS utilize primarily community patient care clinics whose staff are absent of any research training compared with the former researchers that existed decades ago. They are regulated, so they say, by institutional review boards, or IRBs. Both are for profit and essentially cater to the sponsor of the clinical trial in which all are involved with manipulating.

    Because of this structure, the clinical trial investigators of these pharmaceutical sponsored trials are likely novice compared with academic researchers.

    This, of course, happens with intent by the sponsor who can and does control all aspects of the clinical trial protocol at the site locations of a clinical trial that the pharmaceutical company structures and even gives the trial the title they want for their marketing purposes.

    These quite numerous CROS are in fact for- profit, with some CROs making billions of dollars a year, and this market continues to grow.

    The trials conducted at such places again are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies that control and manipulate all aspects of the trial being conducted involving their particular drug chosen to be studied.

    Etiology for their deception regarding this manipulation is because the pharmaceutical company that sponsors such a trial is basically creating a marketing tool for this drug of theirs to be studied in this manner.

    This coercion is done by various methods of deception in subtle and tacit methods.

    As a result, research in this protocol of the sponsor ensures favorable results of the sponsorâ(TM)s medication that is involved in the clinical trial they clearly own.

    These activities are again believed to be absent of true or applied regulation to any degree, and therefore have the autonomy to create whatever they want to benefit the pharmaceutical sponsor.

    There likely is a collusive relationship between the sites, the CRO, and the sponsor, as this whole system is planned beforehand by the pharmaceutical sponsor of their clinical t

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @05:39PM (#27891567)

    If you can accept the profits generated by those thousands of employees then you should accept responsibility for them also. CEO's should go to prison if they knew of the fraud. If they allowed the company to be run in a way that they knew was vulnerable to fraud then they should be held partly responsible (like a mechanic letting you go with brakes they knew were questionable). Why should the person at the top only benefit from the system without being held accountable when things go bad?

    If that were the case, no-one would ever take the risk of forming and running a major business.

    Oh yes they would. People will take lots of risk for the right price.

  • by winwar ( 114053 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @06:06PM (#27891785)

    "The journals seem to be intended to mislead the reader into believing that research and reporting has been done which has not."

    But what if the research WAS done? Does the data/research meet the industry standards? As far as I can tell, it was. So there is no fraud

    How is this different from any other journal that arbitrarily decides what articles to publish?

    The whole point of medical research is to influence doctors.

  • As somebody... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drolli ( 522659 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @10:06PM (#27893257) Journal

    who has published something in an Elsevier Journal (they publish a lot of conference series), i am personnaly disappointed. I wonder if it is possible to retract that article and republish it somewhere else.

  • Re:Brain drugs. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bit01 ( 644603 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @12:09AM (#27893919)

    You remind me of the three stages of technology:

    1. Simple, and doesn't do the job.
    2. Complex, and does the the job
    3. Simple, and does the job.

    Not a bad description. :-)

    Personally, I suspect that the reductionist worldview is at least partially responsible for that.

    Holistic, reductionist, it's all abstraction.

    We're human, with human limitations. To understand we have to abstract and that by definition is an approximation. Some people aren't happy with current abstractions/approximations but unfortunately they haven't really suggested anything better. To me, saying "reductionist is no good" is just a fuzzy way of saying current abstractions/approximations aren't as successful as they'd like.

    Sure, many people would like better abstractions however saying "holistic" may be better is meaningless; "holistic" appears to be code for "we must consider the overall system" and as I've just said we have human limitations that mean we can't consider the overall system, we have to abstract. The only question is, which bits are important and thus should be abstracted?


    Copyrights and patents are privileges, not rights.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:57AM (#27896723)
    My daughter is a pharma copywriter who used to work for a major Ad Agency. She was asked to write a "peer reviewed" article for her product based on a collection of inconclusive studies and to make them look like they were all one big positive study. Her "drug" was a combination of other drugs and no study of the combined drug was ever undertaken but the underlying drugs were well known and thus required no FDA approval. The ethics and editorial board in her Ad Agency rejected the idea but her boss insisted so my daughter reigned. This just happened again at another agency and she resigned again. I have to think this is endemic to the pharma industry. I'm not sure what to do about it but seriously question the validity of ANYTHING they claim.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court