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Medical Journals Tighten Rules

The world's top medical journals Monday announced a joint action aimed at keeping drug companies from pumping up the benefits and downplaying the risks of new medicines in research studies.

An unusual editorial, signed by 12 different journals and appearing in 15 different entities including the National Library of Medicine, was prompted in part by what happened to AIDS researcher Dr. James Kahn. As CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reported earlier this year, when Dr. Kahn's study showed an AIDS drug didn't work, the drugmaker which paid for the study tried to keep Dr. Kahn from publishing the negative results, then sued him for $7 million when he did.

"We were really flabbergasted by this kind of response and I've never seen anything like this," Dr. Kahn said in January.

Monday's editorial warns pharmaceutical companies have too much influence over drug studies, leading critics to say some drugs might not be as safe or as good as the published research claims.

"That line between the author's independent conclusions and the company's conclusions has been blurred," said Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, Editor-In-Chief for the New England Journal of Medicine.

Critics allege drug companies tried to bury the risks of highly touted drugs like Fen-Phen for weight loss and Rezulin for diabetes — drugs that were later pulled from the market for safety reasons.

The journals say the problem is there's now so much competition among researchers for pharmaceutical grants, drug companies can virtually dictate the terms of studies... "...terms that are not always the best interests" of patients or science...(and) "...the results...may be buried rather than published if they are unfavorable..."

Coincidentally, the drug company suing Dr. Kahn for publishing that negative article, has dropped its case against him.

To address the problem, the journals are tightening their ethics requirements. One reason they're so concerned is because their own credibility is at risk if they inadvertently publish studies that were improperly influenced by drug companies. The pharmaceutical industry responded to the harsh criticism by simply saying it supports the new journal policies.

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