There he goes again
NEJM Editor Jeffrey Drazen has a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal today, responding to an article that demonstrated the New England Journal’s laxity in scrutinizing the infamous Vigor trial of Vioxx. He writes, in part:
Physicians and patients were misled about the safety of Vioxx. You claim that journal editors are to blame, but the editors of academic medical journals can publish only the research data that are submitted to them. Editors have no subpoena powers. It is simply untenable to expect them to root out data that researchers are intent on hiding. The academic mission is based on fundamental principles of integrity, trust and open communication. When authors hide critical research data, as they did in the case of the Vigor article, these bedrock principles are breached and the public may be seriously harmed.
Of course journals can’t subopena evidence, but they can air criticism brought to them by others (as the WSJ article described.) They can also warn companies that they risk a loss of credibility when submitting such material.
As I wrote before, the NEJM made a big business of this article, selling almost 1 million reprints, most to Merck. They can’t absolve themselves so easily.May 19, 2006