Elsevier Cops to Publishing More Fake Medical JournalsMay 8, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Earlier this week we wrote that TheScientist.com broke with news that Merck & Co., the maker of controversial drugs such as the Gardasil vaccine and recalled Vioxx, paid Elsevier to publish a bogus medical journal. Now, it seems, Elsevier actually released a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005, The Scientist just said.
All of the publications were developed in the same way, to look like—but only to look like—a legitimate, peer-reviewed medical journal, pointed out The Scientist. Elsevier, considered a scientific publishing giant, said The Scientist, is undergoing an “internal review” of its publishing practices since news broke that it produced a company-funded journal, but did not indicate that the so-called journal was actually a corporately sponsored piece that many see as a thinly veiled marketing tool.
The Scientist noted that the claims relate to the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine. The alleged journal was paid for by Merck and was really simply a collection of “reprinted scientific articles and one-source reviews,” said The Scientist. Most of the articles in the publication presented Merck products favorably, which appears as if the phony journal was developed for marketing purposes without actually indicating itself as project sponsor, said TheScientist.com in its prior report. The so-called review articles contained surprisingly sparse referencing—most review articles are rife with citations and references—with a couple just summaries of published work with a notation they were written by “B&J Editorial,” which one could infer means “Bone and Joint.”
A spokesperson from Elsevier told The Scientist that six titles in a "series of sponsored article publications" were released by its Australia branch with the Elsevier Excerpta Medica imprint from 2000 to 2005 and included: the Australasian Journal of General Practice, the Australasian Journal of Neurology, the Australasian Journal of Cardiology, the Australasian Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, the Australasian Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, and the Australasian Journal of Bone & Joint [Medicine].
Elsevier did not provide sponsor names, but its Health Sciences Division CEO, Michael Hanson, did state, "It has recently come to my attention that from 2000 to 2005, our Australia office published a series of sponsored article compilation publications, on behalf of pharmaceutical clients, that were made to look like journals and lacked the proper disclosures. This was an unacceptable practice, and we regret that it took place," quoted The Scientist. When originally confronted, said The Scientist, Elsevier said it was not planning on looking into the allegations; however, the publisher has since changed its plans, said The Scientist. Hanson stated "We are currently conducting an internal review but believe this was an isolated practice from a past period in time,” quoted The Scientist.
In a similar ongoing farce, we have been writing about researchers falsifying studies linked to industry funds. A former Harvard researcher, Dr. Robert Fogel, admitted misrepresenting a medical study and, according to an earlier Boston.com piece, was disciplined by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for faking data in a sleep apnea study funded by federal research grants. Since leaving Harvard, Fogel has been employed by Merck Research Laboratories, where he is now director of clinical research at its respiratory and allergy division in Rahway, New Jersey.
Legitimate medical journals have been asked to retract drug studies involving Vioxx, Celebrex, Lyrica, and other drugs that were conducted by Dr. Scott S. Reuben of Baystate Medical Center; Reuben has strong ties with the pharmaceutical industry, with among others, having had received funding from Merck.