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PHARMA: Business, Science Clash at Medical Journal

The Washington Post reports on a story about the journal Dialysis & Transplantation allegedly pulling an article critical of the use of the drug Epogen.  Apparently the commercial staff over-ruled the editor, fearful that the negative article might cost them future advertising revenue.  This all strikes me as very strange.  Amgen (who make Epogen) certainly don’t want the publicity this generates as it implies it’s their fault.  And for that matter, even if the article was published, would Amgen really stop advertising in one of the main journals aimed at its core prescribing specialists? There is indeed cause for concern about the relationship between academia, medicine, journals and pharma companies.  But this seems to be a storm in a tea-cup, or a case of one magazine unnecessarily self-censoring. 

On the other hand maybe the author of the offending article welcomed the free publicity. It’s not exactly new to suggest that new uses for drugs (in this case higher doses of Epogen) sometimes have undesirable effects.  And pharma companies spin the results while they can, but generally in these niche cases (even though there are a fair few of them), the medical science will get a good hearing before the payers will pay up.

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