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Scientific Freedom of Speech in Medical Journals—What Role Does Pharmaceutical Advertising Play Regarding Vitamin Supplements?

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In a recently published peer-reviewed study, researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the University of Florida found that in major medical journals, more pharmaceutical advertising is associated with publishing fewer articles about dietary supplements. The research also noted that more pharmaceutical company advertising resulted in the journal having more articles with “negative conclusions about dietary supplement safety.”
The study, described in a recent article entitled “Pharmaceutical Advertising Biases Journals against Vitamin Supplements,” looked at the amount of pharmaceutical advertising in each of the eleven largest medical journals with the amount of text they devoted to discussion of dietary supplements. The researchers’ findings are described as “statistically significant . . . and embarrassing.” The authors concluded that “the impact of advertising on publications is real,” and said that “the ultimate impact of this bias on professional guidelines, health care, and health policy is a matter of great public concern.” To read full article click here.
Mainstream media often quotes physicians who claim that drug company advertising has little influence on their prescribing habits. Yet pharmaceutical advertising dollars have pervaded every aspect of medical research, publication, medical school education, continuing medical education, and practice guidelines. As our affiliate, the Alliance for Natural Health, notes, “It is no wonder that so many in the medical field remain ill-informed about important and crucial findings in nutritional and orthomolecular medicine. Those medical professionals who limit their reading only to such medical journals will never have discovered all the wealth of research, published over decades, supporting the use of dietary supplements.”
The article makes the point that “promoting vested interests masquerading as science is wrong and it must be stopped. At the very least, accepting money carries an obligation to account for the source of that money. All medical journals should be compelled to print a full disclosure in every issue itemizing exactly how much money comes from exactly which sources.” Scientific freedom of speech is a legislative priority and one of AAHF’s most important issues.

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