Industry payments to physician journal editors

Victoria Wong, Lauro Nathaniel Avalos, Michael L. Callaham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0211495
JournalPloS one
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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    Wong, V., Avalos, L. N., & Callaham, M. L. (2019). Industry payments to physician journal editors. PloS one, 14(2), [e0211495]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211495