A furore has erupted following The Scientist magazine’s revelations that Phoni Pharmaceuticals paid an undisclosed sum to scientific vanity publisher Elsleazier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal but which contained only reprinted or summarized articles, most of which presented data favourable to Phoni products. The journal appeared to act solely as a marketing tool with no disclosure of company sponsorship.
The Australian Journal of Boneheads and Joint Medicine, which was published by Extracta Moneya, a division of Dutch scientific publishing juggernaut Greed-Elsleazier, also contained little in the way of advertisements apart from ads for Formonimax, a Phoni drug for osteoporosis, and Viletoxx, Phoni’s controversial pain-killer.
In a statement provided last week to The Scientist, an eminent Australian physician and long-time member of the World Association of Medical Editors reviewed four issues of the journal that were published from 2003-2004.
“An average reader, such as a doctor, could easily mistake the publication for a genuine peer reviewed medical journal”, he said. "Only close inspection of the journals, along with knowledge of medical journals and publishing conventions, enabled me to determine that the Journal was not, in fact, a peer reviewed medical journal, but instead a marketing publication for Phoni."
“They’ve done a heck of good job, and it was only when I noticed that some of the names of the so-called “honorary editorial board” appeared to be made up that I became suspicious,” the reviewer admitted.
A spokesperson for Elsleazier, however, told The Scientist, "All of our journals are thoroughly peer-reviewed prior to publication, by our accountants. Our company would never publish a journal unless it was guaranteed to make us lots of money. After all, our publications are well-known for the standards they deliver – standards of living for our publishing executives, that is…"
Disclosure of Phoni's funding of the journal was not mentioned anywhere in the copies of issues obtained by The Scientist. Elsleazier acknowledged that Phoni had sponsored the publication, but did not disclose the amount the drug company paid.
The spokesperson added that Elsleazier had no plans to look further into the matter. “The high prices of subscriptions to our journals are a guarantee of their quality,” he said. “After all, everyone recognises the quality of Australian scientific publications, in the same way that American diplomacy journals or Nigerian accountancy and banking magazines are regarded…”
One of the genuine members of the Australian Journal of Boneheads and Joint Medicine's "Honorary Editorial Board," Dr. Táké Bakhandar, a rheumatologist in Australia, said he was delighted to serve on the board, however. Dr. Bakhandar has been on Phoni's Asian Pacific and international advisory boards since the mid 1990s, as well as the advisory boards of other pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Amgen.
"You get involved in a whole bunch of things at this level," he said, adding that he had put his name on "quite a few advertorials" for pharmaceutical companies in the past 10 years. “I’m delighted to be able to promote the life-enhancing products of the pharmaceutical industry,” Dr. Bakhandar said.
His colleague and fellow member of the Australian Journal of Boneheads and Joint Medicine's Honorary Editorial Board, Dr. Pádme Baksheesh, agreed. “My own observations conclusively show that there is a direct relationship between the number of products I plug for pharmaceutical companies, and the degree to which my life is enhanced,” he said.
Rich Pillager, Head of Global Marketing for Phoni Pharm. Inc. was also unrepentant.
“The Australian Journal of Boneheads and Joint Medicine” is an important tool in Phoni’s CME (Continuing Medical Education) programme,” he said.
“After all, we’ve been putting out advertorials for years. Everyone remembers our series of children’s books that were designed to promote the use of Phoni’s SSRI Saloadatat in children, for example,” Pillager notes, referring to the controversial “Mr. Bipolar” book based on the
“Our competitors have been doing exactly the same thing, only we’re aiming our latest fairy tales at the adult market. I can’t see what the problem is,” he frothed rabidly.
A related tale from the real world is recounted here. And it would also seem that a so-called scientific publisher in the parallel universe of reality has some “previous” when it comes to controversy...