This time last year, they took the decision to refuse any research - however worthy or useful - simply on the basis that it may have received funding by the tobacco industry. It wouldn't matter if it was ground-breaking research revealing the elusive cure for cancer, the BMJ would be stubbornly uninterested.
At the time, many responses - including one from former editor Richard Smith - asked the obvious question as to why pharmaceutical-funded research was not being treated in the same fashion.
I suggest that exactly the same is true of the pharmaceutical industry and that we probably have even more evidence on the misconduct of pharmaceutical companies than of tobacco companies.
So will the editors stop publishing research funded by the pharmaceutical industry, and if not why not? Knowing the heavy financial dependence of journals on the pharmaceutical industry, I shall be looking for sophistry in the explanations.After all, one of their darlings - Ben Goldacre - published a tome about "How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients" just a couple of years ago.
Defending the decision, editor in chief Fiona Godlee had this to say.
"[There is a] growing body of evidence that biases and research misconduct are often impossible to detect, and that the source of funding can influence the outcomes of studies in invisible ways."Indeed it can, as was proven just the other week when a critique of the e-cig summit was published by the BMJ from a "journalist" called Ingrid Torjesen. Entitled "E-cigarette vapour could damage health of non-smokers", it made some bold claims.
Particles in secondhand vapour from e-cigarettes have the potential to damage the health of non-smokers, a study by environmental scientists presented at the e-cigarette summit in London on 13 November has found.
Researchers presented the first results from chamber experiments that measured the concentration, size, and composition of particles in e-cigarette vapour, and how these parameters changed over time, to determine their potential effects on non-smokers.
Roy Harrison, professor of environmental health and risk management at the University of Birmingham, and Gordon McFiggans, professor of atmospheric multiphase processes at the University of Manchester, presented the results.All well and good ... until the researchers themselves responded by saying that was not what they had said at all!
First, we have made no studies of vapours from e-cigarettes, our study made direct measurements of the particles in the visible "mist" from e-cigarettes with no analysis or quantification of the vapours.
Second, we made no statement of the effects on health of non-smokers.Incredibly, Torjesen was undaunted even when told she was wrong by those who presented the evidence that she had incorrectly reported. Instead, she reiterated the accusations and said that she was correct and that they were not.
It was then that another response pointed out that she may have an agenda.
I would like to draw your attention to a matter concerning the counter-response to claims by Professors McFiggans and Harrison that the article, “E-cigarette vapour could damage health of non-smokers,” written by Ingrid Torjesen, in which they assert that the author has seriously misrepresented their research.
At the end of her counter-response, Ms Torjesen states that she has no competing interests. The fact that Ms Torjesen is the editor of The Advisor magazine which covers smoking cessation and is financed by McNeil Products, makers of Nicorette products, leads me to believe that she should have declared this interest. I feel that this is particularly so because the popularity of e-cigarettes is seriously impacting on the profits of the NRT companies, and her connection to the magazine could lead people to believe that her objectivity might have been somehow compromised. Indeed, in his response to her article, Professor McFiggans states, “However there is evidence that the misrepresentation of our work and misappropriation of evidence is more mischievous than simple misunderstanding.”
Footnote: The magazine in question claims to be independent. It may well be editorially independent, but it is financed by a company that advertises their products within the magazine and who stand to profit by making the publication available to smoking cessation health workers. Surely where money is involved, it must be impossible to be totally independent - however hard one strives to be so?Well, fancy that!
Having been busted, Torjesen then belatedly admits her competing interests may be a problem while throwing in the bereavement plea which anti-smokers tend to think should shut down all criticism.
If I have any competing interests in terms of my editorial direction, they are that I am a supporter of all forms of smoking cessation because of the damage smoking does to smokers, their families and other subjected to it through passive routes. I have also been an advocate of banning smoking in all forms since I was a child, being the child of two parents who were addicted to the habit and died prematurely of smoking-related disease.Hmm. Bereavement coupled with the lure of payment from pharmaceutical interests - I would suggest - could meet Fiona Godlee's definition of "influence" in "invisible ways" quite comprehensively, doncha think?
Yet the BMJ published her article without any scrutiny of the person who was making such transparently outrageous claims.
All this follows on swiftly after the BMJ were slapped down by the EU for publishing execrable nonsense from Jonathan Gornall, and just last week published a load of deliberately misleading cockwaffle about e-cigs in an opinion piece so devoid of fact that it would have failed GCSE level.
So, to recap, the BMJ - which profits from, and prints articles sponsored by, Big Pharma - is quite happy to publish utter garbage from someone else who is dependent on pharmaceutical industry cash.
But it's only tobacco industry research which might be biased? Good grief.