Timing is Everything

April 10th, 2009 | Sources: Economist


jamaLast year, JAMA editor Catherine DeAngelis received the Catcher in the Rye humanitarian prize “because of her leadership on discussions of conflicts of interest in medicine.”

This year she’s knee-deep in shmutz regarding JAMA’s questionable handling of just such a matter.

The dust-up began last spring when JAMA published a study of methods to prevent depression in stroke patients. In the study, Robert Robinson and a team from the University of Iowa compared counseling, antidepressant therapy with Lexapro, and a placebo.

certifiedgreatdrugawardRobinson heaped praise on the pharmaceutical intervention following publication of his study.

 “Every stroke patient who can tolerate an antidepressant should be given one,” he told USA Today.

The study had shown that both counseling and Lexapro outperformed placebo, but there wasn’t a whit of difference between the 2 treatment groups.

Robinson acknowledged that in a letter to JAMA last fall.

Robinson’s letter prompted Lincoln Memorial University professor Jonathan Leo to sleuth around a bit.

He discovered that Robinson had accepted speaker’s fees from Forest Laboratories, the maker of Lexapro, and had not disclosed this.

Leo notified JAMA. The journal said it would investigate, but according to Leo, 5 months passed and nothing happened. That’s when he and a colleague published the discovery in a letter to the British Medical Journal.

itsforyouThree nanoseconds later according to Leo, DeAngelis phoned Leo and his dean threatening to cut off Leo’s work from the light of JAMA’s day forever.

DeAngelis denies this.

Robinson has since admitted receiving speakers’ fees from Forest Laboratories “in 2004 and perhaps 2005.” He apologized in a letter to JAMA citing “errors of memory.”

The same day, JAMA published an accompanying erratum.

It appears that JAMA intended to publish these latter 2 items even if Leo’s letter hadn’t been posted in BMJ days before.

The AMA has asked a journal oversight committee to investigate.


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