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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

JAMA journal quietly replaces diabetes drug commentary after learning co-author is working for drugmaker

with 4 comments

jama int medJAMA Internal Medicine has replaced a commentary they published last week on the risks of two diabetes drugs, but you wouldn’t know the new version was a replacement.

One change is a correction about whether Byetta and Januvia carry so-called “black box” warnings from the FDA. The original sentence:

Because both drugs already carry US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) black box warnings for the risk of pancreatitis, why is this study important?

It now reads:

Because both drugs already carry US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings for the risk of pancreatitis, why is this study important?

The more substantial changes are to the author affiliations and disclosure section. The original read (we masked the email address):

Published Online: February 25, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.3374

Author Affiliations: Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center (Drs Gier and Butler) and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (Dr Butler), University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine.

Correspondence: Dr Butler, Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, 900 Veteran Ave, 24-130 Warren Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095 (xxxx
@mednet.ucla.edu).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

That section now reads:

Published Online: March 5, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.3374

Author Affiliations: Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center (Drs Gier and Butler) and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (Dr Butler), University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine.

Dr Gier reports that, as of February 1, 2013, she is employed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Munich, Germany.

Correspondence: Dr Butler, Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, 900 Veteran Ave, 24-130 Warren Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095 (xxxx@mednet.ucla.edu).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Editor’s Note: At the time this commentary was solicited, submitted, reviewed, and accepted for publication, the editors were unaware that Dr Gier had any pending affiliation with Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The editor’s note is carefully worded, and leaves open the possibility that Gier knew about a pending affiliation but didn’t disclose it. Whether that was something that would need to be disclosed according to JAMA’s instructions for authors is an interesting, if philosophical, question.

But given how straightforward the changes are, we wonder why the journal didn’t indicate that the new version is a replacement. What if readers had downloaded copies of the original — we did — and then went to cite them? These are minor changes, but where’s the boundary? That’s one of the reasons why COPE and others recommend watermarking retracted studies, not removing them. And CrossMark might help, as we’ve noted elsewhere.

Hat tip: Andrew Seaman

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Written by Ivan Oransky

March 5, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Posted in corrections, jama

4 Responses

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  1. Its not so much a “philosophical” question– its more a practical question of the “revolving door”. This highlights the need for more transparency in publishing, if taxpayer funded research becomes available to the public rather than thru intermediary dinosoar drug funded journals like JAMA that will help.

    ed Goodwin, HipSaver Inc

    March 5, 2013 at 1:43 pm

  2. This is really a grey area any way you look at it. Only the author in question knows whether or not their wording was affected by the fact they were pursuing a career with a pharmaceutical company or not. I have worked with ‘experts’ who are at the top of their fields make 6 figures from the pharm industry on top of being professors at the most prestigious medical schools in the world. Unfortunately, there is no clear division between science and money.

    In the end, I’m glad that JAMA reported this, but I don’t see the ‘obvious’ issue, especially since there were other co-authors on the editorial and so it was not a single author making these statements.

    Ahmed M. Abou-Setta, M.D.

    March 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    • Ya, COI is always a “grey” area for the money seeking researchers. But more clear to those
      looking from outside into the whole corrupt system!

      Ed Goodwin

      March 5, 2013 at 7:19 pm

  3. For what it’s worth, a philosophical question can also be a practical one.

    I do wonder why the editors opted against transparency in making these changes, when the costs of transparency would seem to be so low.

    Janet D. Stemwedel

    March 5, 2013 at 10:51 pm


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