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J R Soc Med. 2007 February; 100(2): 64.
PMCID: PMC1791004

Clinical studies in medical journals

A number of articles relating to issues of confidence in the reporting of clinical studies in medical journals occupied the pages of the JRSM during 2006.1-5

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.


1. Bastian H. A reader's guide to author and sponsor biases in clinical research. J R Soc Med 2006;99: 611. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Smith R. Conflicts of interest: how money clouds objectivity. J R Soc Med 2006;99: 292-7 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Smith R. Medical journals and the mass media: moving from love and hate to love. J R Soc Med 2006;99; 347-52 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
4. Smith R. Lapses at the New England Journal of Medicine. J R Soc Med 2006;99: 379-82 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
5. Linkov F, Lovalekar M, La Porte R. Scientific journals are ‘faith based’: is there science behind peer review? J R Soc Med 2006;99: 596. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press