Monday, May 11, 2015

Double Standards for Conflicts of Interest at the BMJ

On April 8th, an editorial was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (published by the BMJ). The editorial had to do with the fact that exercise doesn't seem to help much with weight loss and consequently, we should probably stop tying the two together - and it's an opinion I share.

But today I'm not blogging about the editorial or about exercise, but rather what happened next.

Shortly after the article was published, it was removed following, "an expression of concern".

A few weeks later and the article's back up, and according to the journal, the concern had to do with two undeclared conflicts of interest. One author did not disclose that he is a paid advisor to Atkins, and another did not disclose that he wrote a diet book.

Curiously, on March 13th, just 3 weeks prior to the publication of this piece, another editorial, this one positing that in fact it is a lack of exercise that is driving obesity, was published by the very same British Journal of Sports Medicine.

That piece, authored by Steven Blair, Gregory Hand, and James Hill, have no author declarations of conflict whatsoever (though it does point out that the organization the editorial is announcing was funded by Coca-Cola). Yet Blair and Hill together have authored 21 books on the importance of exercise, and a quick Google search for both certainly reveal very close relationships with Coca-Cola (including this recent $2.5 million grant from Coca-Cola to Blair and Hand on the very subject of their editorial), along with a bevy of board appointments to organizations whose interests would be benefited by interest in "energy balance".

Leaving me to wonder three things:

1. Who submitted the "expression of concern" to the BMJ?
2. Should the BMJ be doing a better job exploring authors' conflicts before publication?


3. Are these sorts of conflicts important to disclose?