Intended for healthcare professionals

Editor's Choice

What we must learn from mesh

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 11 October 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4254

BMJ Group and medical product advertisements

Can we do more to limit direct to physician advertising of medical products in the printed journals of BMJ Group?

The BMJ has published several articles, opinion pieces and news stories over recent years highlighting a strong stance in the promotion of academic research that is unbiased from those that fund it, such as the pharmaceutical industry. Bringing this important topic to the forefront of medical journal publishing should be supported and promoted. I welcome Fiona Godlee's editorial on greater separation between healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry including doctors and researcher's accepting payments from pharma.

However, this strong stance I feel is juxtaposed by a continuation to include full page advertisements for pharmaceutical products in the printed version of The BMJ. It is accepted that such advertisements act as a significant source of funding for some medical journals. However, it does come across with a slight sense of irony to read this editorial in the printed edition of The BMJ directly opposite a full page advertisement for a pharmaceutical product. Even more so it is ironic to see in the same edition of the BMJ, drug advertisements from pharmaceutical companies such as Glaxosmithkline which the BMJ itself highlighted in a recent news article to have restarted direct payments to doctors for promoting medical products [2].

The BMJ Group has a policy on the acceptance of advertisements where it cites that the promotion of a medicine must conform to the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry Code of Practice [3] and that decisions on the inclusion of adverts is subject to editorial discretion. However, it confuses me to see adverts for medical products included in The BMJ from pharmaceutical companies, such as GSK, whose practices the journal openly criticises in its news reports or analyses.

More thought could, and should, be put into the choice of companies which are allowed to promote their wares in the journal. To go even further, it is my belief that the acceptance of advertising revenues from the pharmaceutical industry, especially companies such as GSK, contradicts the messages and ideals that BMJ Group puts forward in editorials such as this.

[1] Godlee F. "What we must learn from mesh" BMJ 2018;363:k4254
[2] Wise J. "GSK will resume paying doctors to promote its drugs after policy U turn" BMJ 2018; 363 :k4157
[3] BMJ Group. "BMJ revenue sources" Accessed 22nd October 2018.

Competing interests: I am a current member of PharmAware-UK which seeks to educate healthcare professionals on how to interact with the pharmaceutical industry in an ethical way. The views expressed in this rapid response do not represent the official views of the organisation and are written in a personal capacity,

22 October 2018
Nathan WP Cantley
Junior Doctor
Edinburgh, United Kingdom