Regarding NEJM Editorial Stance

Kathryn A. Serkes
Article Type: 
September/October 2000
Volume Number: 
Issue Number: 

Dear Wall Street Journal Editor,
Restoring the erosion of the public's confidence in the practice of medicine must be the foremost priority of the new editor of The New England Journal of Medicine in light of questions about the objectivity of recently published articles ("NEJM Appoints Drazen as Editor in Chief," 5/11/00).

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is both optimistic and skeptical about the recent appointment of Dr. Jeffrey Drazen. As your article states, Dr. Drazen's clinical research credentials are impeccable. But much of Dr. Drazen's work has been funded by pharmaceutical companies with an inherent conflict of interest in the results of that research. Therein lies the basis for our skepticism.

While the NEJM has long held a place as one of the most influential medical journals in the country, the efficacy of the research on which a number of recent papers were based has been called into question. Many government- and pharmaceutical-funded researchers published in the NEJM have breached accepted scientific practice by refusing to release and make available original data for critical analysis by other researchers. One can only conclude that this was done in the self-interest of protecting their cash-cow sources of funding, at the expense of the truth.

Last year, the Medical Sentinel, the Journal of AAPS, announced a new truth-in-research policy, requiring public disclosure of all raw research data for all scientific papers it publishes. Editor-in-Chief, Miguel A. Faria, Jr, M.D., issued a challenge to all other medical journals to adopt the same policy: "We invite the editors to join us in restoring trust in published medical and scientific research in the medical literature by requiring public review of scientific information." The NEJM did not respond.

As politicians now pounce on every unsubstantiated kernel of medical research to make their partisan points in public policy, particularly in the area of guns and violence, HIV-AIDS, sexual behavior, and mandatory vaccines, medical journals must be vigilant in allowing objective review of their articles, the data, as well as disclosing potential conflicts of interests of the authors.

We urge Dr. Drazen to make one of his first official policy moves to announce support for a full disclosure, truth-in-research policy to restore public trust.

Kathryn A. Serkes
Public Affairs Counsel, AAPS

This letter was sent but not published in The Wall Street Journal. It is printed here for the interest of the readers of the Medical Sentinel. ---Editor.

Correspondence originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2000;5(5);149-151. Copyright©2000 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

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