Bogus journal alert

In case any readers are medical practitioners, I’d like to alert them to this startling story. Apparently Merck and Elsevier have produced something called the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine which looks like a peer-reviewed journal but is actually a marketing exercise for Merck. If you receive any marketing material citing this “journal” you should consign it to the circular file, and consider whether it is sensible to prescribe medicines that need such snake-oil tactics in their marketing.

This is utterly inexcusable, and no-one involved can retain any credibility in either academic or medical terms. Following on from the arms fair fiasco

Feast the movie

a while back, this exercise is forcing me to consider, again whether publishing in Elsevier journals can be justified.

37 thoughts on “Bogus journal alert

  1. Do you have a link to information about the ‘arms fair fiasco’? I’d be interested to read about it. Cheers.

  2. Given that they also brought us the journals “Chaos, Solitons and Fractals” and “Homeopathy” I wouldn’t be too surprised by anything from Elsevier.

  3. Considering the amount of money to be made hawking potions for joint pain to an ageing, wealthy population this shabby exercise is hardly surprising. And it would be interesting to know what sort of honorariums, attendance fees, freebies woould be expected by editorial board members.

  4. Exactly Pablo – despicable creatures. The media is for sale to the highest bidder these days for any marketing purpose no matter how misleading.

  5. What really gets me is its a bogus educational journal passed off as the genuine. What do you need? A “decent sounding name” ie ” Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine”.
    Sounds inocuous doesnt it – just like the so called “independent institutes” of the economic and policy advice world. 6 members who can set up a website with a desire to get themselves a consulting position as an industry lobbyist (like Costa’s Callaghan institute).

    Independent and an official sounding name is how they operate. They are not independent and they have few members usually. Look for the i word in their blurb and then search in their damn website for who or what they are selling. Look atb the annual reports. The same old applies.

    Follow the money trail.

  6. But the damn newspaper print media will publish them. A collection of bogus nonsense in our newspapers. Lackey journalists paid too little. The truth and facts are expensive and lies are cheap. Thankyou Mr Murdoch.

  7. Well – at least its not just happening to genuine acadenmics in unis – its now happening to doctors too. Cant believe anything you read in mainstream media anymore? Oops – you are not paranoid. You are realistic.

    What happened to the swine flu pandemic? Sell more tamiflu?

  8. I can see I’m going to have to post on Costa soon.

    BTW, it appears that Callaghan is the suburb of Newcastle where the “Institute” is located.

  9. Rip off journals really annoy me now in uni libraries. You only get short dated articles when you want a longer dated one (uni subsciption doesnt extend). Hey presto – it turns up faster and for free on google. Uni libraries are getting ripped off.

  10. Of course its in Newcastle – thats where retired or semi retired NSW Labor politicians live???. Its close to Iguana’s restaurant isnt it? Yet its given a double page spread in last weekends Tele (brand new indepependent Callaghan institute) ..ahh but only on condition Costa writes like a neoliberal. What a chameleon he is.

  11. I hate to say this but the access cost for uni journals reminds of when they first introduced “sterilised prepackaged” dispoable dressing packs, or IV fluids, or disposable sterlised forceps or whatever into hospitals … first they were cheap. Then later as hospitals discarded Australian production or their own local publicy funded sterlising and packaging systems (used to be called Central Sterilising Services Departments) or CSSD… guess what? The price for Phamaceutical firms industry supply of “disposables” rocketed.

    Same thing in unis. Nice incentive to start with. Nice and cheap and lots of access to free or cheap scholarly journal articles databases. Now what does access to academic information cost? Who is tracking this because the quality of access has fallen. There are slower connection speeds, the journal databases say the info cant be found, and now it can be laborious and some articles dont show up like they should (yet appear more easily in google scholar – so what is going on?? And, more importantly how much are unis paying??)

  12. 16# Patents are a schmozzle of difficult arguments and a system that possibly has become subject to abuse – eg people taking out a patent to wake up in the morning? Im not fond of the power it has accorded big pharma (especially when millions die in Africa through being unable to buy Chinese generic copies of US patent medicines. Then there is the fuss made by the US government over patent rotection when it talks the talk of no protection (but walks the walk of protection etc). In short, a minefield.

  13. I’ve had the misfortune to require some medication which is “new”, as in not studied for eons in the human population. Some of the side-effects have me wondering whether congestive heart failure could be a medium-term risk. Trying to find out from the medical literature is virtually impossible though, because the overwhelming majority of scientific articles have at least one or more affiliated authors – or their funding is from the big-pharma in question. The problem is that many of the articles are likely to be a front, a foot in the door with GPs who need reassurance that a drug is scientifically sound. Separating the truly independent researcher from the subtly compromised one isn’t feasible though.

    It reminds me of the vioxx fiasco, all over again.

    More importantly, this is one big reason why universities should not be so closely tied to private dollars. The pressure to commercialise IP seriously compromises science and the broader public knows it. Unfortunately such problems aren’t going to go away while Labor and Liberal parties are of like mind concerning the value of research being measured only by the almighty dollar.

  14. 17# about medecine not produced in the “advanced” world, the last episode of intellectual property extremism is costing lives:

    “Seizure of generic drugs during transit through EU”

    And disrupting free trade and its associated much-touted benefits, but I assume every person in the world expected economists knows that intellectual property is the most potent form of protectionism ever invented (in effect huge to infinite tariff going to the pocket of a select few able to corrupt public bodies).

  15. What really disturbs me these days is pharmaceutical companies advertising on radio offering people payment (low payment more than likely) to participate in drug trials. Paid to be guinea pigs. I wouldnt touch it.

  16. I had the misfortune to have once worked for a division of pfizer and two years there convinced me the company had no scruples at all. They had been covering up for over eight years a faulty batch of heart valves where the metal strut holding the disc of the valve came apart leading to the disc flying out and ending up mostly in the bifurcation of the Aorta. Death from overwhelming congestive cardiac failure came rapidly. As people died with these things in situ across the globe they had repeatedly denied it over years and called in all their false medical “experts” to argue their case. In the end of course, it came out (and they tried to argue that the risk of reoperation on persons who had them insitu was greater than the risk from the valve itself) – the lawsuits hitting head office. So Pfizer sold off the company’s other product lines and left the heart valve company as a mere shell and probably claimed insolvency to avoid the lawsuits (like James Hardie industries and their asbestosis funds – its just too easy for them to do isnt it?).

  17. gerard#10 Says:

    “But the bigger issue is that rip-off for-profit journals should all die. The money that they charge is crippling to university budgets. the drop in the Australian dollar has hit UQ so hard they’ve supposedly had to cut back drastically on library hours so that they can afford to keep their subscriptions.”

    You know we allowed this to happen through false ideologies that the private sector was somehow more efficient and we failed to protect our public institutions or recognise their value. We sought to apply profit maximisation incentives to universities (and to departments within universities).

    We dropped the boundary between the public good and the private good inherent in prior traditions of keeping the search for knowledge free from commercial interests. We allowed money to flood into universities from private full fee paying students and lost the sense of entry based on merit over means. We made our excellent universities in this country turn partially private.

    That move will cost us more than lost library hours in the longer term. It will cost us the quality of our knowledge, our research and the reputation of our higher education institutions.

    It will corrode our universities from the inside out.

    Yet we let happen.

  18. Re #22, #19: Funny you should mention that particular company, Alice 🙂

  19. 24 # Why Donald? Dont tell me you worked there too? Mine was brief (two and half years) fortunately. They actually shocked me – that heart valve business!

    Lots of things went on in the Pfizer subsidiaries I knew about that would have given nurses and doctors a heart attack. Like how much profit they (…really) make on equipment and how much money they had to wine and dine medicos and senior public servants… and actually how few people they really employ for all that profit (and how little tax they actually pay in Australia when they juggle their books to turn it into a tax loss they can use to offset operations in other countries). And how did they know in advance the ATO was coming for an audit (Im serious – resulting in a request for all managers to destroy any reference to transfer price lists immediately)?

    I became convinced when I worked there that big pharmaceutical firms like this are really huge vacuum cleaners that take more profit out of Australia than they ever contribute back to our economy.

    We should have realised it thirty years ago. Its one thing for hospital employees to make purchasing decisions based on which item is cheaper at a given point in time. Thats just ordinary efficiency. Its not intelligence. Its more difficult to evaluate those purchasing decisions over longer time periods, examine the rate of increase in prices and whether it is justified, to invest in creating alternative local supply when you have insufficient choice left – nicely carved that way by big pharma.

    How do you carve up a hospital and segment the market?

    Well there is cardio thoracics, then there is orthopaedics, then there is angiography, then there is radiology – these firms specialise in areas of supply and there are always a mere trickle of them – even though they then above that, may be under the umbrella of eg Pfizer.

    Yes, its a very profitable business.

  20. Hi Alice,

    Re #25, no, I didn’t work for them, but I am using some medication of theirs…and the literature on it was an eye-opener because of the manner in which the scientific articles are funded by them – not that they are alone in this practice.

    For the academic scientists it must be quite an issue: imagine that you are a research leader in a particular field (let’s say to do with nerve signal transduction or something like that) and along comes a drug that promises to be the first real breakthrough for treating a particular condition, say MS or something equally nasty. If a drug company approaches you, provides the drug for free, and access to their knowledgebase concerning that drug and similar ones, well I’m sure it would be hard to turn down such an offer. The claws in the contract come later…

    In the modern world the test subjects are the first decade of patients, unfortunately. One thing I will say in defence of big-pharma though: the modern medical patient is typically on several medications, and each medication may affect the liver metabolism of other medications; as a result, the field test of a drug is always going to throw up surprises not spotted in preclinical/clinical trials. Then there is the issue of genetic variability, *and* epigenetic effects to consider too.

    None of the above excuses the sort unethical practices that have been uncovered in big-pharma companies.

  21. I dont want to behorrible about it but the test subjects for drugs used to be animals. Now its humans. Its horrible to think some people may need the money so badly they will volunteer to be one (why else?). Shame on the drug companies.

  22. I must admit after what I saw Ive never felt good about big pharmaceutical companies. No conscience, no ethics, plenty of hubris, and dare I say it …sucking our public health service dry.

  23. John, thanks for the references.

    With plenty of references to protectionnism in the current debates and ACTA coming up we need more posts on intellectual property, not less :).

    European Union juste extended copyright for song performers from 50 to 70 years …

  24. Unfortunately, the blogosphere is now reporting that Elsevier has at least 6 ethically challenged journals (aka fake journals).

    Even more unfortunately, if it can happen in medicine so easily, then there is no reason it cannot happen in other politically/ideologically driven areas – climate change and especially AGW, environmentalism, evolution, and so on. What’s the bet that at least one fully faked journal, that attacks AGW relentlessly, pops up before the year is out? I’m not talking about existing journals that have been hijacked (E&E for example) but the creation of one from the ground up.

    Scientists and academics generally are going to have to fight this one before it is too late and the irreparable damage is done.

  25. UQ library’s response to this: “We rely on our users to advise us of cases where journals do not meet academic standards”. So no audit of the journal subscriptions students and taxpayers are forced to pay for? University libraries seem an odd venue for caveat emptoring, but we’re in the noughties, I guess.

  26. #33 during my time at UQ the library was always asking academics for feedback about their services and the journals they had. Similarly for QUT.

  27. 35# but mostly their customers Charlie and it wont stop them. Patter – thats all.

  28. This is what Elsevier said (micheal Hansen) CEO Health Dervices Division.

    “Elsevier prides itself on operating its business in the most ethical, honest and transparent manner possible. We have been stewards of the scientific record for more than 125 years and we take our role in advancing medical and scientific research seriously.

    It has recently come to my attention that from 2000 to 2005, our Australia office published a series of sponsored article compilation publications, on behalf of pharmaceutical clients, that were made to look like journals and lacked the proper disclosures. This was an unacceptable practice, and we regret that it took place.

    We are currently conducting an internal review but believe this was an isolated practice from a past period in time. It does not reflect the way we operate today. The individuals involved in the project have long since left the company. I have affirmed our business practices as they relate to what defines a journal and the proper use of disclosure language with our employees to ensure this does not happen again.

    We will continue to partner with all scientists and clinical investigators, including those in the pharmaceutical industry, to help communicate the findings of high-quality, peer-reviewed medical research. We have strict disclosure rules in place so that readers are aware of any financial interests behind a specific article or journal, or when entire compilation products are created for pharmaceutical marketing purposes.

    I understand this issue has troubled our communities of authors, editors, customers and employees. But I can assure all that the integrity of Elsevier’s publications and business practices remains intact.”

    So lets see if it makes one iota of differnence and whether the “Australiasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medecine” or whatever it was called, is recalled and removed, OR whether uni managements will actually condemn this practice?

    I doubt it. All we will get is an apology like this above and a protracted “internal review” until no-one is interested and the issue dies down…and nothing at all will change. The scam will continue.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s