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US court ruling gives broad free speech protection to scientific articles

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f4259 (Published 01 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4259
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

Citing free speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and New York state law, a US federal court has ruled that researchers cannot be sued for scientific conclusions made in journal articles about matters of scientific debate.

In addition, companies that cite excerpts from such articles in their advertising and promotional efforts are also protected, “so long as the excerpts do not mislead a reader about the conclusions of the article,” the court ruled.

The unanimous opinion of the three judge panel of the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York was written by circuit judge Gerard Lynch.1

The case involved a lawsuit over false advertising brought by the company ONY of Amherst, New York, maker of the lung surfactant product calfactant (which it markets as Infasurf), against Cornerstone Therapeutics, in North Carolina, which markets a competing product, poractant alfa (Curosurf), under contract for Chiesi Farmaceutici of Parma, Italy.

In the lawsuit ONY alleged that Chiesi and Cornerstone paid for research designed to show that the Chiesi product was superior and then disseminated the false and deceptive findings through an article published in the Journal of Perinatology and through promotional material citing the article’s conclusions.

US …

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