Medical journals could increase transparency by removing ads, study shows



TORONTO, January 8, 2014 – Pharmaceutical ads could easily be removed from general medical journals by increasing subscription rates, according to an international study published today in PLOS ONE.

York University health policy professor Joel Lexchin, one of the co-authors of the study and a Toronto emergency physician, says he would willingly pay a little extra for the journals to get rid of the ads, whose poor quality information appears next to high-quality, peer-reviewed articles.

The study, which looked at advertisements in six general medical journals in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, included researchers from Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.

The two Canadian journals studied – the Canadian Medical Association Journal and Canadian Family Physician – contained five times more advertisements than the American and British journals in the study.

Lexchin co-authored earlier research that shows pharmaceutical promotion may cause doctors to prescribe more expensive or less appropriate drugs, and do it more often. “Drug advertisements in medical journals do not lead to better prescribing and often result in worse prescribing,” he says. “We estimate that for $40 more per year, Canadian doctors could read the Canadian Medical Association Journal without ads. I think it would be worth it.”

Dr. Lexchin is available for comment today (10am to 2pm) in advance of the publication of the embargoed study at 5pm, or following its publication.

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