Seeking Insurance: Autism and Education
BMJ's Godlee “It Did Not Occur to Us.” Now, Where did I Hear that Before?

Catalyst for Debate with BMJ from Alliance for Human Research Protection

AHRP From Vera Hassner Sharav of the Alliance for Human Research Protection website in response to the BMJ competing interests declaration. See the original content at the AHRP site  HERE.

The editor in chief of the BMJ acknowledges that AHRP was right to criticize the BMJ and its editor for failing to disclose to its readership, the BMJ financial ties to Merck--manufacturer of 13 vaccines. She also acknowledges income from GSK--manufacturer of several vaccines as well.  (HERE)

"Thank you for giving me an opportunity to respond to Vera Hassner Sharav's comment, [1] which for those of you who haven't seen it is reproduced below. (HERE)

Although Vera's claims may seem far-fetched on this occasion, she is right 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.[2] [3] [4] We should also, as you say, have declared the group's income from GSK as a competing interest in relation to these articles. We will publish clarifications."

However, her statement, "We didn't declare these competing interests because it didn't occur to us to do so " is startling. How seriously are we to take her strongly articulated stance against researchers who fail to disclose their financial conflicts of interest--if she doesn't recognize her journal's blatant conflict of interest?

Either she is being disingenuous or downright cynical about the BMJs declared stand against financial conflicts of interest that are undermining the integrity of medical research reports, and its own clandestine partnerships with industry.

Let's be clear: financial conflicts of interest ALWAYS influence the position one defends-- human nature is no different between politicians whose campaign chests are filled by vested interests, government officials, or academics who have grown dependent on financial support from special interests. Each delivers the service for which he /she is paid.

Vera Hassner Sharav



"The contentious issue of drug-industry influence over medical-research writing erupted on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia this week [July 2011]. A professor of psychiatry has alleged that several colleagues — including the chair of his department — allowed their names to be added to a manuscript while ceding control to the global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The professor, Jay Amsterdam, also claims that the manuscript, written with an unacknowledged contractor paid by GSK, unduly promotes the company's antidepressant drug Paxil (paroxetine), the subject of the study."

Mark Struthers

“We will publish clarifications”, said Dr Godlee, after being rumbled by John Stone for dismally failing to disclose conflicts over the BMJ sponsored hack-attacks perpetrated by Deer Brian. My own pre-emptive strike (below – posted Sunday afternoon 13 March) on issues of disclosure clarification …. has consequently failed to find space on – though routinely ignores clarifications it doesn’t like.

In response to John Stone:

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

Andrew Wakefield was accused and ultimately found guilty of serious professional misconduct for not disclosing in 'The Lancet' paper of February 1998 that he was a medical expert involved in assessing the merits of litigation against the manufacturers of MMR on behalf of children possibly damaged by the vaccine. However, the matter of litigation had no bearing on 'The Lancet' paper and Dr Wakefield had followed the 'subjective' Lancet disclosure rules in place in 1997 when the paper was submitted. [1]

In his report to the GMC of May 2007, Professor Sir Michael Rutter FRS, expert witness for the prosecution, declared that failure to disclose in 'The Lancet' was "quite unsatisfactory." At the subsequent GMC hearing, Professor Sir Michael, expert witness on behalf of the vaccine industry in the UK MMR litigation, confirmed that a researcher had an objective duty to disclose conflicting interests. The entirely laudable reason for the disclosure obligation was so that ...

... "the reader of the published research could judge for himself whether the quality of the reported science outweighs the potential for the conflict to bias the interpretation."

Of course, the disclosure rules for 'The Lancet' and other medical and scientific journals had changed in the intervening decade - but Sir Michael, an expert in conflicts disclosure, did not seem to feel the need to clarify the matter before the GMC.

It seems that the BMJ reader was not given the opportunity to judge the potential for the BMJ's conflicting interests to bias the editorial interpretation of Brian Deer's published research. The failure to disclose could quite justifiably be interpreted as "unsatisfactory".

[1] 'Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines - the Truth behind a Tragedy' by Andrew Wakefield 2010. Chapter Eleven: Disclosure.

John Stone


Yes, this is appalling in so many respects. That Merck could remain a respectable entity after that epsode, that the perpetrators remain free of criminal prosecution, that a prestigious academic journal should want to be in bed with them, and that the said journal can pretend that its connections are so trivial as to be barely worth mentioning.

Apart from anything it tells you how news is managed these days, so big things are made small or even publicly invisible, and small things are blown up out of any proportion.



"....For example, as reported in The New York Times [4], an _Annals of Internal Medicine_ article on Merck's “Advantage” trial of Vioxx omitted some trial participants' deaths. Distancing himself from the _Annals_ article, first author Jeffrey Lisse said in an interview that "Merck designed the trial, paid for the trial, ran the trial…Merck came to me after the study was completed and said, ‘We want your help to work on the paper.’ The initial paper was written at Merck, and then it was sent to me for editing” [4].

Such incidents have provoked many commentaries about ghost writing in the medical press. This article enlarges the focus from ghost writing to the more general ghost management of medical research and publishing: when pharmaceutical companies and their agents control or shape multiple steps in the research, analysis, writing, and publication of articles. Such articles are “ghostly” because signs of their actual production are largely invisible—academic authors whose names appear at the tops of ghost-managed articles give corporate research a veneer of independence and credibility. They are “managed” because those companies shape the eventual message conveyed by the article or by a suite of articles. As discussed below, a substantial percentage of medical journal articles (in addition to meeting presentations and other forms of publication, which are not the focus here) are ghost managed, allowing the pharmaceutical industry considerable influence on medical research, and making that research a vehicle for marketing....Ghost management of medical journal publications is clearly a substantial business, employing thousands of marketers, writers, and managers. It is large enough that the industry has established the International Publication Planning Association. This organization, which appears to be dominated by pharmaceutical companies, organizes meetings, keeps a directory of experts, and gives awards to honor planners [42]."

From Ghost "Management: How Much of the Medical Literature Is Shaped Behind the Scenes by the Pharmaceutical Industry?" by Sergio Sismondo.

Cindy Griffin

Bottom line: Follow the money ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS holds true. Thank you, AHRP and AofA for all the good work you continue to do - for the kids.

John Stone


Fiona Godlee seems to me to be a politician through and through (she even seems to have given up her doctor's registration). She was appointed editor of BMJ weeks after giving a presentation to British National Formulary about how to control public opinion over vaccination, never apparently considering the possibility that they sometimes might be right. Back in autumn 2006 she even had the sense to warn against the GMC hearing, but somehow she's got sucked in. It isn't absolutely clear why certain people in this affair seem to behave ever more desperately, but then most career politicians end up by losing the game.


I once had occasion to exchange Emails with Dr Fiona Godlee over an article in the BMJ. I quoted the great Culpeper MD at her ..

"Many a times I find my patients disturbed by trouble of Conscience or Sorrow, and I have to act the Divine before I can be the Physician. In fact our greatest skill lies in the infusion of Hopes, to induce confidence and peace of mind."

She snitched it, and placed it on the back cover of the BMJ.
The arrogance of some of these people would be quite amusing were it not for the tragedy, of which the arrogance is a defense of the lowest kind.

Jenny Allan

From Brian Deer's Guardian Blog:-

"Next week in the BMJ, I will go further, showing how the old boys' network of the medical establishment was mobilised to protect him. Are you getting the picture yet?
But times are changing. Wakefield's fall from grace is now slicing another scalp. One of the most insidious cartels at the heart of British science is being torn apart: the two top journals in medical science."

If Brian Deer's outrageous BMJ articles are instrumental in bringing down the 'Big Pharma funded' Lancet and BMJ, them maybe this nasty little hack will have done us all a favour!!

Paul Shapiro

My wise old mom always said,

"Money talks and BS Walks"

BMJ of course Money bends your prospective.

Who do you think you are fooling? Yourself!


Maybe she is just an airhead. She certainly sounds like one. And then, maybe she shouldn't have the position of editor in chief at the BMJ. With that kind of answer, who can believe that she knows what she's doing... No wonder the BMJ is becoming pure garbage...

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