Advertising Policies of Medical Journals: Conflicts of Interest for Journal Editors and Professional Societies

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 27 (2):113-121 (1999)
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As the medical profession becomes more and more of a commercial enterprise, commentators are subjecting conflicts of interest in medicine to increasing scrutiny. However, one critical area of conflict has largely escaped discussion—the conflicts of interest raised by the advertising policies of medical journals. Moreover, when these conflicts are discussed, they are examined almost exclusively in terms of the concerns that they pose for journal editors. Yet, there is a second critical concern with journal advertising policies. The policies also create serious conflicts of interest for the professional societies that own medical journals.In this article, we will discuss the conflicts of interest that are raised for journal editors and professional societies by journal advertising policies, and we will conclude that the policies are exactly backward. Currently, medical journals rely on advertisements from pharmaceutical companies and other health-related businesses and avoid—indeed exclude—advertisements from consumer-oriented companies, like producers of automobiles, golf equipment, or jewelry. We submit that the medical journals, the medical profession, and the public would be better served if consumeroriented advertisement were preferred over health-related advertising.



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