Bias More Likely in Medical Journals That Accept Reprint Fees: Study

There is a longstanding fear in the scientific community that pharmaceutical companies could sway the research published in medical journals by paying them for advertising, but a new study reveals that advertising might not be the problem.

“All the available literature suggests that ad revenue should be the real concern, but that’s not what we found,” said study author S. Scott Graham. He is an assistant professor of rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin.

Instead, Graham and his fellow investigators observed that journals that accept reprint fees — let companies pay them to republish their articles — were almost three times more likely to contain articles written by authors who receive funding from the pharmaceutical industry.

Many prior studies have established that researchers who have financial conflicts of interest are more prone to writing papers that are favorable to pharmaceutical products, so a journal that publishes the work of authors with conflicts is likely to include more biased research.

Graham’s team reviewed well-over 100,000 articles published in 159 medical journals to come to this conclusion.