Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Journal policy on research funded by the tobacco industry

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

Rapid Response:

Re: Journal policy on research funded by the tobacco industry

Richard Smith makes a good point.(1) Like the tobacco industry the pharmaceutical industry has been found repeatedly to have manipulated and suppressed research data in order to make its products appear better than they are. Non-industry funded research also suffers from such misconduct but the scale and influence of pharma funded research makes its current state of particular concern.

I am firmly of the view that clinical practice should be based on independent research. Drug and device companies should not be evaluating their own products. All phase III trials should be designed, analysed, and reported independent of the manufacturers. Clinical practice guidelines should be free of industry bias.

The BMJ is working on its own (2) (3) and in support of others (4) (5) to increase transparency and accountability in clinical trials, to reduce the influence of industry in medical education and clinical guidelines,(6) and to unpick the legacy of research bias and misconduct. (7) (8) If these efforts do not soon bring about a necessary sea change in the way industry funded trials are performed, the BMJ may well decide to stop publishing them. Whether an editor would survive such a decision is a question I may have to test.

I would like to hear readers’ views on what more we and others should be doing and especially on whether journals should continue to publish research funded by drug and device manufacturers.

1. Smith R. The same arguments mean that journals should stop publishing research funded by the pharmaceutical industry.
2. Godlee F, Groves T. The new BMJ policy on sharing data from drug and device trials. BMJ 2012;345:e7888.
3. Open data campaign
4. Alltrials
5. Kmietowicz Z. European regulator appeals against order stopping it from releasing clinical study documents. BMJ 2013;347:f4728. (24 July.)
6. Lenzer J. Why we can’t trust clinical guidelines. BMJ 2013;346:f3830 (14 June.)
7. Abramson JD, Rosenberg HG, Jewell NJ, Wright JM. Should people at low risk of cardiovascular disease take a statin? BMJ 2013;347:f6123. (22 October.)
8. Doshi P, Dickersin K, Healy D, Vedula SW, Jefferson T. Restoring invisible and abandoned trials: a call for people to publish the findings. BMJ 2013;346:f2865. (13 June.)

Competing interests: I am editor in chief and a director of the BMJ, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BMA. BMJ receives revenues from drug and device manufacturers in the form of advertising, reprint sales, and sponsorship. I receive a bonus based in part on the financial performance of the BMJ. The BMJ is an open access journal that charges author fees for publication of research articles. I have campaigned on issues of research transparency and integrity for quite a few years. The BMJ is a founding member of Alltrials.

13 November 2013
Fiona Godlee
editor in chief
London WC1H 9JR