May 6, 2009
When it comes to medical journals, it’s nothing new to say that you can’t always believe what you read. It’s been pretty well documented that some clinical studies and other medical research published in peer journals are authored by doctors or researchers who have financial ties to the drug companies sponsoring the medications or other conflicts of interest that can color their work.
But now, one of the world’s largest drug companies is accused of taking the whole smoke and mirrors job to an entirely new and more sinister level.
Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical Goliath behind Vioxx, Gardasil, and other big-name drugs, allegedly paid the medical publishing firm Elsevier to crank out a make-believe medical journal that was nothing more than a marketing tool designed to promote the company’s products under the guise of legitimate medical research.
The journal, called Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, was used to publish favorable research and data on Merck drugs. Merck then quoted the fictitious research in promoting its drugs as being safe. But the purported journal cannot be found on the Internet and it’s not registered with Medline, the medical journal database, leading some to call the publication a scam.
The accusation against Merck is shocking. It’s sort of like a man creating his own version of People magazine on his Mac at home, naming himself the Sexiest Man Alive, and then showing off the magazine to women as proof that he is, indeed, sexy.