Pharmaceuticals giant Merck & Co. is refusing to answer questions about a growing scandal involving its publication of fake scientific journals that were, in fact, little more than promotions for its products.
Originally thought to have published six such journals, it now turns out Merck bought and paid for nine journals -- with 13 more in the works.
News of the fake journals broke in April in The Scientist when it reported that Merck had paid Australian publisher Elsevier to print Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine (AJBJM), without revealing that the publication was created and paid for by Merck.
The "vast majority"of articles in AJBJM during its 2002 to 2005 publishing life were favourable articles about Merck drugs Fosamax and Vioxx -- two medications that have been linked to dangerous side effects.
Fosamax is an osteoporosis drug that has been linked to cancer.
LegalView reports on the recent Fosamax side effects, which have caused patients to not only consider new medications but to discuss the potential for a Fosamax class action lawsuit as well. In January, two medical journals, The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Dental Association provided a one-two punch against the drug’s manufacturers, Merck and Co., reportedly linking the drug to such side effects as esophageal cancer and jaw bone die-off. Patients of the osteoporosis drug are advised to contact a medical professional to discuss the drug and its alleged dangers.
Vioxx, an anti-inflammatory, was pulled off the market after independent studies found a link to increased heart attack and strokes.
Merck, in what Summer Johnson calls "passing the buck" in the respected blog.bioethics.net, is refusing to answer questions about the publishing scandal, referring all questions to Elsevier -- which says it is reviewing its policies and admits the publications never should have been called journals.
Johnson is having none it:
Simply because Elsevier took the bait doesn't mean Merck is off the hook. Elsevier is rightfully taking the heat for agreeing to create entire divisions of publications that an Elsevier spokesperson admitted "should not have been called 'journals'." What an admission! What to call a publication such as these really is the question--perhaps they will fade into oblivion such that we will not have to give them a name. Not a chance. ...
If Elsevier really wants to put this scandal behind them, they must throw the doors open wide and disclose everything--including how much they were paid. Eventually the facts will come out. When they do--and I'm only guessing the figure is astronomical--Elsevier will look like they were hiding some very dirty laundry. Merck already is passing the buck and leave Elsevier holding the bag. Thus far it looks like they are succeeding.
The nine fake journals are: The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, the Australasian Journal of Neurology, the Australasian Journal of Hospital Medicine, the Australasian Journal of General Practice, the Australasian Journal of Cardiology, the Australasian Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, the Australasian Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, the Australasian Journal of Clinical Practice, and the Australasian Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine.
The 13 planned fakes are: The Australasian Journal of Pediatrics, the Australasian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Australasian Journal of Dentistry, the Australasian Journal of Infectious Diseases, the Australasian Journal of Pain Management, the Australasian Journal of Respiratory Medicine, the Australasian Journal of Sexual Health, the Australasian Journal of Psychiatry, the Australasian Journal of Asthma, the Australasian Journal of Gastroenterology, the Australasian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, the Australasian Journal of Depression, the Core Journals in Oncology.