Chemistry Blog



May 01

Merck Faked a Research Journal (.PDFs Available)

by mitch | Categories: science news | (39941 Views)

As a good chemist I always defend drug companies when I hear people attack their integrity. I can’t help but roll my eyes when I hear the benefits of herbal remedies, and can’t help but wince when I hear people advocate only eating natural non-chemical containing foods. Even I will have to mellow these attitudes after The Scientist uncovered a deal Merck made with Elsevier to publish a fake medical journal for an undisclosed sum of money.

I always feel the readers of Chemistry Blog should draw their own conclusions, so here are the .PDFs for the 1st and 2nd issue of the journal: 1st, 2nd

My findings and take on each issue of the fake journal are summarized below.

Summary from my Perusal of the 1st issue of the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine.

Total Quantity Article Type # Merck Products # other Company Products Conclusion
6 International News 0 0
2 Review Articles 1 1 Aledronate is Good
2 Abstracts 0 0
1 Commentary 0 0
9 Conference Highlights 2 0 Aledronate Effective
2 Case Report 0 0
2 Ads 2 0 Fosamax, Vioxx

Out of 22 articles only 3 show Merck in a good light. The other articles are general information pieces that a doctor might be interested in. Doesn’t really seem too evil, but here are the stats from the next issue.

Summary from my Perusal of the 2nd issue of the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine.

Total Quantity Article Type # Merck Products # other Company Products Conclusion
3 International News 2 1 Rofexocib, Fosamax both good
2 Review Articles 2 1 Aledronate Good, Rofecoxib neutral
2 Case Report 0 0
9 Abstracts 6 2 Aledronate and Rofecoxib are good
8 Conference Highlights 5 2 Refoxib is good, Aledronate equal to hormone replacement, Aledronate better than PG’s Risedronate, Aledronate is good, Aledronate better than Lilly’s Raloxifene
1 Ads 1 0 Vioxx

Out of 24 articles 15 show Merck in a good light. Two of them show Merck’s drugs work better than competition. Any pretense of legitimacy to any ethical standard is completely lost when 63% of the stories are favorable to Merck. I can understand highlighting articles favorable to your company, but to go through all the hoops to make your own look-a-like peer-review journal seems over the top, ridiculous, and tarnishes science.

The Scientist broke this story: Merck Published Fake Journal

Update 1: Merck releases a statement: Merck Responds to Questions about the
Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine Journal
. The statement goes over some examples of where they feel they have been slighted egregiously. It concludes with a broad statement implying they won’t do something like this again. In my mind, it still does not make up for creating a fake research journal to push Merck products.



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  1. Chemjobber

    Stunning. Any callback to “The Moral Corporation” is pretty much dead now.

  2. Rachel

    Dodgy f***ers. Who on earth reads the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine anyway?

    1. mitch

      Apparently they would hand it to doctors showing them how well their drugs were being received in the peer-review literature.

      1. Rachel

        I see. How many self-respecting doctors would accept information from a (previously unheard of) journal, presented to them by a drug company? I would like to think very few.

      2. kiwi

        These sorts of details are coming out now that Merck is fighting a Vioxx class action in Australia; the claim lawyers are making the case that Merck deliberately mislead doctors about the safety and efficacy of Vioxx. Not surprising, but some of the details (like this) make for interesting reading.


  3. joel

    yikes. that sort of thing paints Merck with a really, really, *really* bad brush.

    any chance of finding out more about how it was uncovered without a subscription to The Scientist? i can’t access it and am too lazy to look any harder.

    1. mitch

      You need to register, but you don’t need a subscription.

    2. William Penrose

      You have to pretend you’re a life scientist, ie, DNA jock, but the online subscription is free.

  4. William Penrose

    I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked!

    Astonished, even.

  5. excimer

    I’m just mad that I didn’t think of it first.

  6. raven

    Thanks for posting this analysis, Mitch.
    But I suspect that issue 2 also contains a Fosamax ad. Issue has a Fosamax ad on pages 12-13. The pdf of issue 2 has pages 12-13 missing.
    Also a minor point: these are issues 1 and 2 of volume 2. The journal went at least to volume 4(1) 2005 (but the first volume was called Australasian Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine) – see Dana Roth’s comment attached to the Scientist article.
    So Rachel, firstly long before the 4th volume, this would not have been a previously-unheard-of journal. Secondly, some of the articles were reprinted (logos and all) from established journals, plus there were many summaries of articles from established journal. Plus of course, there was the illustrious Honorary Editorial Board, which included Professor Ric Day, a clinical pharmacologist who at the time and until recently was Chair of the Australian Government’s Pharmaceutical Health and Rational Use of Medicines Committee, which has a major role in the oversight of Australia’s National Medicines Policy and the Quality Use of Medicines strategy – now that’s credibility!

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