The use of the journal's name was the subject of week-long negotiations between the society and Dr. Marcia Angell, the journal's No. 2 editor, who the society hopes will take charge while it searches for a new editor in chief.
Angell, 60, said she will not seek the top job at the journal and will leave to teach and write after the new editor is named.
The agreement announced Wednesday over use of the journal's name, she said, "strengthens and clarifies the necessary separation between the New England Journal and the society's other ventures."
The journal ousted Dr. Jerome Kassirer as editor in chief because of his long-standing opposition to using the journal's name to promote other journals, magazines and consumer newsletters.
Among the ideas that had been floated was creating a line of second-tier specialty journals, with names such as the New England Journal of Cardiology, that would print the magazine's rejected studies.
The New England Journal of Medicine which is widely regarded as the world's most prestigious medical magazine, is also highly profitable. While the society declines to release figures, the Boston Globe estimates that the journal and other society publications account for about 95 percent of the society's $73 million annual budget.
The agreement states that the society can say its new publications are "from the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine." But it cannot use the journal's name or logo in any other way on its products or marketing campaigns without the editor's permission.
"What all of us are looking to is a control over the words `New England Journal of Medicine,'" said Dr. Jack Evjy, the society's president.
Evjy said future journal editors will have the same veto power as Angell negotiated over use of the journal's name.
The society said last week they would not renew Kassirer's contract as journal editor, a job he has held for eight years.
"They decided that they were no longer interested in my continuing as the editor-in-chief," Kassirer said last Monday. "They told me that they wanted to end my tenure."
Medical society officials said Kassirer's performance as journal editor was never questioned, and both sides said the society never interfered with his decisions about what to print.
"This is an honest difference of opinion," said Frank Fortin, a medical society spokesman. "We are trying to be responsive to a new world of medical publishing."
In January, Dr. George Lundberg was fired from the Journal of the American Medical Association, another of the world's most distinguishemedical journals, for publishing a 1991 survey of college students on whether oral sex constitutes sex. The AMA objected to the timing of the publication to coincide with President Clinton's impeachment trial.
Dr. John T. Harrington, dean of Tufts Medical School, resigned from the Medical Society's publications committee early last month to protest the handling of the Kassirer case.
"Control of the journal is slipping to the bean counters," he told the The Boston Globe. "This is a spectacular example of money beating medicine."