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Should medical journals publish sponsored content?

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 12 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g352
  1. Jadwiga A Wedzicha, professor of respiratory medicine1,
  2. Robert Steinbrook, professor adjunct of internal medicine2,
  3. Jerome P Kassirer, distinguished professor3
  1. 1University College London, Royal Free Campus, London NW3 2PF
  2. 2Department of Internal Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, 333 Cedar St, I-456 SHM, PO Box 208008, New Haven, CT 06520Q, USA
  3. 3Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: J A Wedzicha w.wedzicha{at}, R Steinbrook robert.steinbrook{at}

Some journals take funding from drug companies or other organisations to publish articles. Jadwiga A Wedzicha says this enables niche work to be disseminated, advancing medicine, but Robert Steinbrook and Jerome P Kassirer believe that sponsorship introduces more conflicts of interest and erodes trust

Yes—Jadwiga A Wedzicha

Dissemination of medical knowledge is essential to wide groups of healthcare professionals, whether they are practising clinicians or researchers. The medical literature contributes in several ways, including editorials, clinical reviews, original papers, and letters to the editor. Introduction of more open access publishing has also improved global dissemination of clinical and research papers.

In addition to original articles and reviews, some journals publish individual or collections of articles that have been sponsored by an agency other than the journal’s publisher. The sponsorship is usually from the pharmaceutical industry but can also be from other organisations such as specialist societies, charities, or government agencies. The sponsorship usually covers the costs of producing and disseminating the publication, with some profit remaining for the journal. Without such sponsorship much of this material would not be widely published, and I therefore believe that it benefits medical knowledge.

Added value

Sponsored articles should not be published within the pages of a general or specialist journals. Instead, they are now mostly published in a sponsored supplement separate from the main journal.

The supplements are usually collections of review articles generated after discussions at a meeting or a workshop. However, they may be also collections of articles that increase awareness of a disease or describe unmet needs in research. A good example is a recent collection of articles in the European Respiratory Review published by the European Respiratory Society on topics from the fifth international congress on pulmonary rare diseases and orphan drugs that was sponsored by the Scleroderma World Foundation. This is an up …

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