Hidden Conflicts of JAMA Authors Exposed
Statement of CSPI Integrity in Science Director Merrill Goozner
Two years ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest warned the editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association and other leading scientific journals that there was a persistent pattern of non-disclosure of conflicts of interest by researchers publishing articles within their pages. CSPI said that a voluntary disclosure policy needed teeth if it was going to work. Our concerns were ignored.
Today’s Wall Street Journal documented a major failure to disclose relevant conflicts by seven authors of a JAMA article involving the safety of anti-depressant use by pregnant women. At least two of those authors, including lead author Lee S. Cohen, a Harvard Medical School professor and director of the perinatal and reproductive psychiatry research program at Massachusetts General Hospital, had their conflicts of interest documented in CSPI's Integrity in Science Database at www.integrityinscience.org prior to publication of the article.
It’s clear that the Journal of the American Medical Association does not evaluate conflict of interest disclosures when articles are submitted. As a result, some authors with blatant conflicts of interest apparently feel they can ignore the journal’s policy with impunity.
The only solution is for journals to adopt strong penalties for authors who fail to disclose – a three-year ban from publishing in the pages in the journal (such a policy has been adopted by Environmental Health Perspectives). The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors should also make a ban by any of its members apply to all its members.
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).