Intended for healthcare professionals


Journal policy on research funded by the tobacco industry

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 15 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5193

Re: Journal policy on research funded by the tobacco industry

I was the editor of the BMJ when we decided after much discussion that we would publish research funded by tobacco companies, but I fully respect the decision of the current editors of BMJ, BMJ Open, Heart, and Thorax to decide not to do so.

I do, however, have what I think is difficult question for the editors, and I’d appreciate it if each of them could answer.

The two arguments for stopping publishing research funded by the tobacco industry are that the research is corrupted and that the companies are publishing research in journals primarily to advance their commercial aims oblivious of the harm they do.

I suggest that exactly the same is true of the pharmaceutical industry and that we probably have even more evidence on the misconduct of pharmaceutical companies than of tobacco companies. Both Ben Goldacre and Peter Gøtzsche have gathered together this evidence in important books. (1 2)

So will the editors stop publishing research funded by the pharmaceutical industry, and if not why not? Knowing the heavy financial dependence of journals on the pharmaceutical industry, I shall be looking for sophistry in the explanations.

1 Goldacre B. Bad Pharma. London: Fourth Estate, 2012. ISBN 978-0-00-735074-2

2 Gøtzsche P. Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma has Corrupted Healthcare. Oxford: Radcliffe 2013. ISBN 9781846198847.

Competing interests: Competing interest: RS was the editor of the BMJ and chief executive of the BMJ Publishing Group, in which role he was responsible for Thorax and Heart. He was a member of the board of the Public Library of Science from 2004 to 2011. He works for a for profit company, UnitedHealth Group, and is the chair of the board of a for profit company, Patients Know Best, in which he has equity. He receives a pension from the BMA, the owners of the BMJ Group.

22 October 2013
Richard Smith
Patients Know Best
London SW4 0LD