Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Statins for people at low risk

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 21 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h3908

Rapid Response:

Rapid response re COPE complaint

In light of inaccurate statements made last week in the Lancet by its editor Richard Horton,[1] we have decided to publish the documents relating to the complaint made by Rory Collins and colleagues to the Committee on Publication Ethics in October 2014. The complaint referred to The BMJ’s handling of two articles published the year before, which questioned the value of statin therapy in people at low risk of heart disease.[2] [3] In his commentary Horton says: “After 2 years of frustrating exchange, including a direct request that COPE conduct an independent investigation, COPE declined to act further, emphasising that it is a charitable member organisation, not a regulatory authority.” [1]

COPE is indeed a member organisation and not a regulator. But as shown in the documents, which can be viewed here (, COPE did not decline to act. It deliberated on the concerns raised by Collins et al and The BMJ’s response, and came to a clear conclusion: that The BMJ had acted appropriately in this matter. This conclusion confirmed the earlier decision of a panel of independent experts, appointed by The BMJ in June 2014, to consider Collins’ demand that The BMJ should retract the two articles.[4] [5]

Since COPE exchanged information only with and between the two parties to the complaint, this misinformation would appear to have been based on a version of events provided to the Lancet by the complainants themselves. We hope that publication of the documents relating to the complaint will serve to correct the public record.

Fiona Godlee
Editor in chief, The BMJ

1 Horton R. Offline: Lessons from the controversy over statins. Lancet 2016;388 (No 10049):1040, 10 September 2016.

2 Abramson JD, Rosenberg HG, Jewell N, Wright JM. Should people at low risk of cardiovascular disease take a statin? BMJ 2013;347:f6123. doi: (Published 22 October 2013.) Correction

3 Malhotra A. Saturated fat is not the major issue. BMJ 2013;347:f6340. doi: (Published 22 October 2013.) Correction

4 Independent statins review panel. Report

5 Heath I, Evans S, Furberg C, Hippisley-Cox J, Krumholz H, Mulrow C, et al. Report of the independent panel considering the retraction of two articles in The BMJ.BMJ 2014;349:g5176.doi: (Published 15 August 2014.) Corrections

Competing interests: I was the person complained about in the complaint by Collins et al to COPE. As editor in chief of The BMJ, I am responsible for all that it contains

14 September 2016
Fiona Godlee
Editor in chief
London WC1H 9JR