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Bastian1 raised the issue of a very high percentage of clinical research being sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry and the resulting conflicts of interest, and in a number of articles Smith2-4 drew attention to the fact that even the editors of prestigious medical journals can have conflicts of interest when accepting certain articles for publication.
The concerns relating to the potential conflict of interests of researchers and authors (not necessarily one and the same), those involved in the peer review process of articles submitted for publication, and the commercial interests of journal editors identified in these articles, all have their parallels in the drug regulatory processes.
Applications from the pharmaceutical industry for marketing approval may contain reports of many clinical studies many of which are those submitted for journal publication. The ‘peer review’ is conducted by the permanent staff of the national regulatory authority (the MHRA in the UK, and the FDA in the USA) and their advisory committees. In the past it was not uncommon for the independent experts appointed to serve on the Committee on Safety of Medicines to have to declare an interest in the submissions for marketing approval put before them.
Regulatory approval of an application for marketing approval of a new medicine is a paper exercise based on the acceptance of the integrity of the data submitted and trust in the ‘peer review’ system and those who operate it. The editorial by Kamran Abbasi5 raises the issue of whether scientific journals are ‘faith based’. The same question has to be directed at the drug regulatory system for identical reasons.
Competing interests None declared.