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This is the text of the unpublished letter, submitted 3 March:-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 ? Should not these competing interests be openly declared?
 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/
 Univadis log-in page, http://www.univadis.com/RH/UK_loginpage/
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.