Background Open Payments is a United States federal program mandating reporting of medical industry payments to physicians, increasing transparency of physician conflicts of interest (COI). Study objectives were to assess industry payments to physician-editors, and to compare their financial COI rate to all physicians within the specialty. Methods and findings We performed a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data, reviewing Open Payments from August 1, 2013 to December 31, 2016. We reviewed general payments (“. . . not made in connection with a research agreement”) and research funding to “top tier” physician-editors of highly-cited medical journals. We compared payments to physician-editors and physicians-by-specialty. In 35 journals, 333 (74.5%) of 447 “top tier” US-based editors met inclusion criteria. Of these, 212 (63.7%) received industry-associated payments in the study period. In an average year, 141 (42.3%) of physician-editors received any direct payments to themselves including general payments and research payments, 66 (19.8%) received direct payments >$5,000 (National Institutes of Health threshold for a Significant Financial Interest) and 51 (15.3%) received >$10,000. Mean annual general payments to physician-editors was $55,157 (median 3,512, standard deviation 561,885, range 10–10,981,153). Median general payments to physician-editors were mostly higher compared to all physicians within their specialty. Mean annual direct research payment to the physician-editor was $14,558 (median 4,000, range 15–174,440). Mean annual indirect research funding to the physician-editor’s institution (highly valued by academic leaders such as departmental chairs and deans) was $175,282 (median 49,107, range 0.18–5,000,000). The main study limitation was difficulty identifying physician-editors primarily responsible for making manuscript decisions. Conclusions A substantial minority of physician-editors receive payments from industry within any given year, sometimes quite large. Most editors received payment of some kind during the four-year study period. Given the extent of editors’ influences on the medical literature, more robust and accessible editor financial COI declarations are recommended.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)