A review article in a medical journal is an attempt to summarize the current state of research on a particular topic. A review article does not present original research but rather collects and interprets the research that has been done, describes gaps in the research and controversies that exist, and how to apply the research in clinical practice. A review article can be a good starting point to get a grasp of a topic. However, because the authors are generally experts on the topic they are discussing, they often have a point of view that may not be obvious to someone not expert in the field.
But what if the agenda for the article were out in the open? What if, say, a drug company sponsored a review article on its own drug and paid a medical journal to publish it? That appears to have happened with this review article on fibrates in a journal called Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine, published by MedReviews, LLC. The acknowledgment discloses the following:
Abbott Laboratories, Inc., provided funding to MedReviews, LLC. No funding was provided to authors. Abbott Laboratories, Inc. had the opportunity to review and comment on the publication content; however, all decisions regarding content were made by the authors.
So, while it is unclear who produced the initial draft of the article, Abbott Laboratories reviewed and commented on the article before publication and paid the publisher for publishing the article. Abbott just happens to sell two fibrates, TriCor and Trilipix.
Never having heard of this journal, I looked at the journal’s website and confirmed that it is a peer-reviewed journal and is indexed in PubMed and Medline. It’s editorial board includes some well-known academic physicians. The website also discloses that MedReviews has formed a partnership with the California Chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone would want to spend their time reading a medical journal that publishes review articles that have such a high level of involvement from a commercial enterprise with a vested interest in the topic. I’m also having a hard time understanding why the California Chapter of the ACC and the members of the editorial board would want to be associated with this journal.
H/T Harlan Krumholz.
Addendum January 7, 2012: Howard Brody has weighed in on the Hooked: Ethics, Medicine, and Pharma blog.
Addendum January 10, 2012: Also see this post on Pharmalot blog.
Addendum August 16, 2012: See this followup post by Kevin Lomangino on the Health News Watchdog blog.
David Rind recently revived his blog Evidence in Medicine and has a post up on the SHARP trial. The SHARP trial, which I discussed recently on this blog and on Gooznews, is the basis for Merck’s application for a new indication for its drugs Vytorin (ezetimibe/simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe). David explains why the results in SHARP are consistent with previous evidence on the effect of statins in patients with chronic kidney disease, both pre-dialysis and on dialysis.
Kevin Lomangino has an article up on the “portfolio diet,” which is a diet that emphasizes foods that lower cholesterol. Kevin explains that most of the cholesterol-lowering from this diet comes from the inclusion of foods containing added plant sterols. As I previously discussed on this blog, while plant sterols lower LDL, their effect on cardiovascular events is unknown, making the portfolio diet a bit of a crapshoot healthwise.