Intended for healthcare professionals


Medical journals and industry ties

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 28 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7197

Re: Medical journals and industry ties

Dear Editor

The recent Editorial in The BMJ (1) announcing the new policy for commissioned educational content is welcomed. Some of us and other epidemiology colleagues have already responded (2) to point out that the concerns addressed through the new policy of The BMJ are as relevant for public health as for clinical content.

However, for public health the dilemma of how far upstream to go hunting for commercial or other vested interests, which might constitute a significant conflict, is a daunting challenge. The challenges are not new to those working to secure better health for populations all over the world.

According to The BMJ’s new policy, authors of educational content commissioned by the BMJ must have no links with companies or organizations that have commercial or other conflicts, which would, presumably exclude pharma and device manufacturers, for example. But, what about educational content sponsored by companies or entities that, at first glance, may meet the policy requirements, but which many might think have conflicts of interest of a different sort (for example, the company itself has either close or more distant associations with the tobacco or arms industries, or with anti-vaccine activism)?

Would The BMJ be concerned if its commissioned educational content came from authors twice or more times removed from a source of income or a vested interest that is explicitly at odds with public health values and goals?

How far should The BMJ’s policy go in this regard? Our purpose is not to be judgmental or critical of BMJ policy, whose intentions we welcome. We ask in the context of the development of a Conflict-of-Interest and Disclosure position statement currently in preparation by the International Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology and would welcome the views of The BMJ’s editorial team and of its readers to inform our deliberations.

Yours sincerely,
Fiona Sim*, Amy Davis, Eduardo Franco, Bruce Lanphear, Leah Phillips, Colin Soskolne


1. Chew M, Brizzell C, Abbasi K, Godlee F. Editorials Medical journals and industry ties. 28/11/14.
2. Soskolne Cl, Al-Delaimy WK, Burns K, Finch MR, Gaudino JA Jr, Lanphear B, Oremus M, Phillips L, Ruff K, Weiss SH, Wing S. Medical journals and industry ties: Competing interests in epidemiology. 8/1/14. BMJ 2015;350:g7744

Competing interests: All the authors are members of the International Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology Working Group on Conflict of Interest and Disclosure. Fiona Sim is Joint Editor in Chief, 'Public Health'.

11 January 2015
Fiona M Sim
Public Health Physician
Royal Society for Public Health
John Snow House, 59 Mansell Street, London, E1 8AN