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Payments by US pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to US medical journal editors: retrospective observational study

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 26 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4619
  1. Jessica J Liu, internist and assistant professor1 2,
  2. Chaim M Bell, internist and professor1 2 3 4,
  3. John J Matelski, biostatistician2,
  4. Allan S Detsky, internist and professor1 2 3,
  5. Peter Cram, internist and professor1 2 3 4
  1. 1Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University Health Network and Sinai Health System, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Institute for Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to: J J Liu Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University Health Network and Sinai Health System, Toronto, Ontario, Canada jessica.liu{at}
  • Accepted 18 September 2017


Objective To estimate financial payments from industry to US journal editors.

Design Retrospective observational study.

Setting 52 influential (high impact factor for their specialty) US medical journals from 26 specialties and US Open Payments database, 2014.

Participants 713 editors at the associate level and above identified from each journal’s online masthead.

Main outcome measures All general payments (eg, personal income) and research related payments from pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to eligible physicians in 2014. Percentages of editors receiving payments and the magnitude of such payments were compared across journals and by specialty. Journal websites were also reviewed to determine if conflict of interest policies for editors were readily accessible.

Results Of 713 eligible editors, 361 (50.6%) received some (>$0) general payments in 2014, and 139 (19.5%) received research payments. The median general payment was $11 (£8; €9) (interquartile range $0-2923) and the median research payment was $0 ($0-0). The mean general payment was $28 136 (SD $415 045), and the mean research payment was $37 963 (SD $175 239). The highest median general payments were received by journal editors from endocrinology ($7207, $0-85 816), cardiology ($2664, $0-12 912), gastroenterology ($696, $0-20 002), rheumatology ($515, $0-14 280), and urology ($480, $90-669). For high impact general medicine journals, median payments were $0 ($0-14). A review of the 52 journal websites revealed that editor conflict of interest policies were readily accessible (ie, within five minutes) for 17/52 (32.7%) of journals.

Conclusions Industry payments to journal editors are common and often large, particularly for certain subspecialties. Journals should consider the potential impact of such payments on public trust in published research.


  • Contributors: All the authors made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work, or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of the work; drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; gave final approval of the version to be published; and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. JJL and PC are the guarantors.

  • Funding: PC is supported by a K24 award from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (AR062133).

  • Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years, no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Ethical approval: This study was approved by the Sinai Health System research ethics board.

  • Data sharing: No additional data available.

  • Transparency: The lead author (JJL) affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as planned (and, if relevant, registered) have been explained.

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