When it comes to medical journals, itâ€™s nothing new to say that you canâ€™t always believe what you read. Itâ€™s been pretty well documented that some clinical studies and other medical research published in peer journals are authored by doctors or researchers who have financial ties to the drug companies sponsoring the medications or other conflicts of interest that can color their work.
But now, one of the worldâ€™s largest drug companies is accused of taking the whole smoke and mirrors job to an entirely new and more sinister level.
Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical Goliath behind Vioxx, Gardasil, and other big-name drugs, allegedly paid the medical publishing firm Elsevier to crank out a make-believe medical journal that was nothing more than a marketing tool designed to promote the companyâ€™s products under the guise of legitimate medical research.
The journal, called Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, was used to publish favorable research and data on Merck drugs. Merck then quoted the fictitious research in promoting its drugs as being safe. But the purported journal cannot be found on the Internet and itâ€™s not registered with Medline, the medical journal database, leading some to call the publication a scam.
The accusation against Merck is shocking. Itâ€™s sort of like a man creating his own version of People magazine on his Mac at home, naming himself the Sexiest Man Alive, and then showing off the magazine to women as proof that he is, indeed, sexy.
Another Shot for Medical Journals
The Meck medical journal scandal, first reported by medical industry watch dog site The Scientist, has rocked the medical publishing world, which has being dogged by accusations of kickbacks paid to physicians who author positive research findings and other dirty, back-room dealings.
Legitimate medical journals recently retracted some studies they published on drugs like Vioxx, Celebrex, Lyrica that were conducted by researchers with financial ties to Merck and other drug companies or other conflicts of interest.
Patients Victimized by Dishonest Medical Publishing
When the dust has settled, the real losers here will be drug consumers. Patients and their doctors who read medical journals and trust that the findings are the result of legitimate, ethical research take drugs thinking they are safe and effective, when in fact they may not be. The accusations against Merck of publishing a fake medical journal call into question all medical research and raise doubts about the legitimacy of studies involving new or proposed drugs.