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The Difference: Bruesewitz v Berkovitz

British Medical Journal Fails to Acknowledge its Own Commercial Conflicts

Money ethics By John Stone

British Medical Journal has failed to acknowledge its own competing interests the Wakefield affair, and have failed to publish a letter pointing out their neglect. My letter was submitted in response to a news report by Bob Roehr ‘Medical journals with advertising are more likely than subscription journals to recommend drugs’ which pointed to the risk of publication bias in free journals. Roehr wrote (HERE ):

‘Free medical journals with drug advertising were significantly more likely to recommend specific drugs that were advertised on their pages than were journals that relied upon subscription fees to cover their operating costs.

‘“Free journals almost exclusively endorse the use of the selected drugs, whereas journals that rely exclusively on subscription fees for their revenue are more likely to recommend against the use of the same drugs,” said lead author Annette Becker, MD, from the University of Marburg, Germany. The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal ( CMAJ 2011. Doi: 10.1503/cmaj.100951 )…’

 The BMJ is part free and notably left its venomous and manifold attacks on the integrity of Andrew Wakefield as open access.  They failed, however, not only to acknowledge their advertising but also the fact that their learning division is in partnership with MMR vaccine manufacturer Merck (as pointed out by Martin J Walker in Age of Autism and elsewhere HERE ) and that another MMR manufacturer, GSK, as well as Merck helps fund their annual awards.

It is obviously highly misleading for BMJ to affect concern for bias while failing to acknowledge its own conflicts of this sort. Yet another moral conundrum that journal’s editor, Fiona Godlee, has failed to solve.

This is the text of the unpublished letter, submitted 3 March:- 


"What about BMJ, Merck and GSK (and Andrew Wakefield)?"

BMJ is a part free journal. In view of the recent renewed attacks on Andrew Wakefield (which were all free of access) what are we to make of the fact that BMJ Learning is in partnership with Merck under the alias of Univadis [1,2], or that MSD and GSK sponsor BMJ awards [3]? Should not these competing interests be openly declared?

[1] Vera Hassner Sharav 'BMJ & Lancet Wedded to Merck CME Partnership' (including Martin J Walker 'Merck's Medical Media Empire'), http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/766/9/

[2] Univadis log-in page, http://www.univadis.com/RH/UK_loginpage/

[3] http://groupawards.bmj.com/sponsors

John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.



The hypocrisy quite takes the breath away; the double standard towards Andrew Wakefield's 'failure to disclose' is breathtaking. Of course, Dr Fiona Godlee is editor of the BMJ and responsible for all it contains ... and doesn't. And of course Dr Godlee didn't declare the BMJ Group's income from Merck and GSK in the BMJ's venomous attacks on Andrew Wakefield's personal and scientific integrity,


The editor has finally gotten around to publishing John’s short letter and responding to him and Vera Hassner Sharav’s highly pertinent questions … and declaring that …

... "we should have declared the BMJ Group's income from Merck as a competing interest to the editorial (and the two editor's choice articles) that accompanied Brian Deer's series on the Secrets of the MMR scare. We should also, as you say, have declared the group's income from GSK as a competing interest in relation to these articles."

Applying a signature to a letter of resignation must now be a very tempting … if not irresistible temptation ... for the editor of the BMJ.


How does Fiona Godlee sleep at night? And how does Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, live with himself? How is it that Horton and Godlee still resist the temptation to resign their editorships?

Sandy Gottstein

John, Yes, but hidden in there is them handing liability off to vaccine manufacturers....

John Stone


Interesting report, but although they admit mistakes over swine flu they almost certainly have bogus figures for normal flu deaths - as we discovered in the UK we were only averaging 33 deaths a year:


Projected onto the entire EU population (500m) that might give you 250-300 fatalities: less 1% of those claimed.

Sandy Gottstein

By the way, John, timely remark: Swine flu: learning from past mistakes

Sandy Gottstein

Surprise, surpise. Only 40% of doctors think they should inform you of their financial ties to BigPharma - http://nyti.ms/dMWN9k

How conVENient.

Jack Hep

The whole of North Africa is alight as the people regain their national interests, and it did not take much stimulus when people were already at tipping point. Bankers bailed out along with our corrupted PFI hospitals, extortionately expensive managagements, massive pay offs, pharmaceutical immunity including against loss of profit as they are immunised with the bankers, whilst massive poverty spreads around the country as people lose their jobs, houses, disability funding after realising how little concern their politicians show for them. So who knows, the wrath of our people could very soon turn against the corrupted medical infrastructure and such overt displays of conceit and arrogance that will be difficult to hide.

John Stone


This story, of course, goes back a long way (at least two and a half decades):


and gets ever more bizarrely tangled. For instance, why did Harvey Marcovitch, head of GMC panels, end up signing the BMJ editorial:


What hangs on it? Fiona Godlee, of course, has the insurance policy that she already seems to have de-registered as a doctor. But I don't fully understand what has led them to go this far. Perhaps, we should continue to see it as the big time bomb which sits under the British and perhaps global medical establishment, hence the over-kill, when in former times Godlee herself thought it was better to back off.

My guess is that it is still destined to well and truly blow up, although this will not stop us heading for a new dark age, in which the only money in academia will be slush money because governments have washed their hands of responsibility.


Jenny Allan

John Stone on the BMJ outrageous Wakefield MMR articles:-

'with the continuing assumption that it doesn't matter and they will never have to account for themselves: indeed, much of the time they seem to be taking insane risks.'

I expect the BMJ Editors have all been given 'immunity' from any consequences. An apparently bottomless public and pharmaceutical industries 'purse' has lulled them all into a false sense of security.

I would LIKE to think that SOME persons are now finding it hard to sleep at nights. The recent scandalous events surrounding the LSE and all those Gaddaffi links have exposed what happens when things go wrong and all those 'cosy deals' involving, amongst others, respected academics, politicians and even Royalty are exposed to public approbation!!

There is still a great deal of Gaddaffi 'fallout' to come, but it is entertaining to watch all those 'high heid yins' attempting to distance themselves from this!!

It's just a matter of time before the MMR vaccine scandal is publicly exposed. One in sixty children with autism in the UK and increasing, simply CANNOT be ignored forever.

John Stone


My guess is that Eindekker is an industry insider but not necessarily closely connected with BMJ, nor is what he says remotely plausible. Of course, we are into big excuse land and over-arching arrogance. When you've got all that money running through your institutional veins you may lose all grasp of what you are doing (like the London School of Economics and the Gaddafi regime).

In particular, in this affair we have see the most flagrant and outrageous infringements of public standards by those determined to bring Andy down, with the continuing assumption that it doesn't matter and they will never have to account for themselves: indeed, much of the time they seem to be taking insane risks.


Jenny Allan

'perhaps that's why the BMJ chose not to publish your letter'

How do you know Eindekker???? You must be part of the BMJ decision making process.

John Stone


Weasel comment: the competing interest should be acknowledged in the article itself. It certainly isn't there up-front for journalists and casual readers. I have to admit the Merck/Univadis/BMJ connection had escaped me altogether before Martin Walker pointed it out. So actually BMJ are so arrogant they don't even have to acknowledge that they are in business with one of the manufacturers of the products they are trying to defend.


Step back a minute John: "Should not these competing interests be openly declared", exactly how much more open could the links be made, the references you gave make the sponsorship and links quite open, they're hardly hidden, perhaps that's why the BMJ chose not to publish your letter

Jenny Allan

Brian Deer's third BMJ article in the 'Secrets of the MMR scare' series entitled:-

'The Lancet's 2 days to bury bad news',

is now only available to paid subscribers. I had great difficulty in cutting and pasting the url. In common with Deer's Guardian blog, (below) they are deliberately making it difficult to share these articles and blogs worldwide. (The Guardian url keeps getting changed).



It is notable that the articles slagging off Wakefield were free access, but the one discussing the false allegations about the payments from Barr is subscription only.

Joseph Porter

Someone wouldn't be trying to take the Mikado, would they?

Behold the Lord High Executioner


Jenny Allan

John Stone on Brian Deer's bloggery:-

'instead during January placing little nuggets of his inimitable wisdom in different blogs about the web'

Semantics or whatever-I love it John!!

How about this 'Little Deer nougat' from his Guardian blog 12-01-11:-
'Let battle commence, I say. Let doctors expose each other. Let journals compete to get the truth out first. Because 13 years passed before I slayed the MMR monster. And although a single, severed hand may yet come crawling across the floor, for science and public safety 13 years is still too long.'
The rest of Deer's blog is just as colourful for those of you who like a good laugh or want to experience some of Deer's 'inimitable wisdom'!


John Stone


I doubt whether the difference is even semantic. Of course, BMJ are playing dirty and instead of behaving like a peer review journal they early threw down the gauntlet to sue


with such a myriad of false and unsubstantiated claims that it was very hard to know where to begin. They have also been reluctant to post direct criticism of Deer's research and he has been notably absent in response (instead during January placing little nuggets of his inimitable wisdom in different blogs about the web).



Great post, Mr Stone. The BMJ and many other prestigious medical journals have cheapened themselves over time. They are now a particularly vile form of biased CME and DTCA. Their influence upon governments and lawmakers is insidious and typified by advanced market commitments and global vaccine policy. These publications provide the medical gravitas to support pharma’s marketing taglines. It’s a pathologic symbiotic relationship that has existed for quite some time. Conflicts of interest? Who are they kidding? The involvement of the BMJ and Lancet in pharma’s orchestrated attack upon the character and reputation of Dr Andrew Wakefield is an utter disgrace.

Robin’s comment about Tamiflu and the Bird Flu are on point:

“Who Owns the Rights on Tamiflu: Rumsfeld To Profit From Bird Flu Hoax” by Michel Chossudovsky on October 26, 2005.


Jenny Allan

The following BMJ article reports a very interesting development in the UK. Paul Offit's new book called: "Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All", has had to be pulped before a 'book launch' in the UK. (This book cover bears a striking resemblance to 'Vaccine Epidemic'. Coincidence? I DON'T think so!!


From the BMJ above:-'Basic Books, the book’s publisher, has agreed to remove a sentence suggesting that Mr Barr personally paid money to Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who hypothesised that the vaccine might cause autism, to carry out a study for the purpose of the MMR litigation.'

From Brian Deer's BMJ article 'How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money' 11-01-11

'Nobody was aware that Wakefield was receiving substantial personal payments from Barr, but both the medical school’s dean and the hospital’s chief executive knew that his research was part funded through a lawyer.'

The only difference between these two statements is 'semantic'. Offit plainly used the Deer BMJ articles as 'source' material for his book. So WHY is the BMJ NOT also withdrawing these three disgraceful slanderous articles??

Robin Rowlands

The extent to which professionals rely on such journals for - supposedly informed and trusted advice - when such are prey to vested interests through sponsorship and advertising is a serious worry . . .
I wonder what position the BMJ took on Tamiflu when our government was wasting so much money on such an ineffective drug which provided -' little meaningful protection '- to either the public at large or the professional and their family in the event that the Mexican outbreak had really been proved such a killer . . .

Robin Rowlands

Guildford Surrey

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