Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Journal policy on tobacco funded research

Arguments against publishing tobacco funded research also apply to drug industry funded research

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 19 November 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6732
  1. Richard Smith, chair1
  1. 1Patients Know Best, London SW4 0LD, UK
  1. richardswsmith{at}

I was the BMJ editor when we decided after much discussion that we would publish research funded by tobacco companies, but I respect the decision of the current editors of BMJ, BMJ Open, Heart, and Thorax not to do so.1

I do, however, have what I think is a 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 mainly to advance their commercial aims, oblivious of the harm they do.

I suggest that exactly the same is true of the drug industry and that we probably have even more evidence on the misconduct of drug companies than of tobacco companies. Both Ben Goldacre and Peter Gøtzsche have gathered together this evidence in important books.2 3

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


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6732


  • Competing interests: I was the editor of the BMJ and chief executive of the BMJ Publishing Group, in which role I was responsible for Thorax and Heart. I was a member of the board of the Public Library of Science from 2004 to 2011. I now work for a for-profit company, UnitedHealth Group, and am the chair of the board of a for-profit company, Patients Know Best, in which I have equity. I receive a pension from the BMA, the owners of the BMJ Group.


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