Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

He who pays the piper . . .

Thanks to Blake for turning me on to the open-access International Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health, based in the land of the bowler and bumbershoot.

If you scroll down to the commentaries you'll find a link labeled "Inappropriate Ads in Peer-Reviewed Journals." Lee Friedman and Elihu Richter looked at a year's worth of advertising in The New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA (formerly the Journal of the American Medical Association, but they rebranded and now the letters officially don't stand for anything. However, it is still in fact if not in name the journal of the American Medical Association. Go figger.)

Anyhow, these magazines, which cost hundreds of dollars a year to subscribers, took in advertising revenue in 2001 of almost $18 million (NEJM) and over $27 million (JAMA). And that's not counting classified ads -- those are display ads, mostly from (drum roll please). . . . . .

You guessed it, drug manufacturers. Excluding ads from non-profit organizations and self-promotion for the journals and their owners (the Massachusetts Medical Society and the AMA), drug companies bought more than 90% of the display ads in both journals. Advertising in JAMA represents, get this, 23.5% of the gross revenue of the American Medical Association. (AMA publishes several other journals. They get much less advertising than JAMA, but the total revenue for the association from drug company ads is nevertheless even more than this.) The authors could not get information about Mass. Medical Society's overall finances, but $18 million a year must mean a lot to them. In fact, I suspect that as far as MMS is concerned, when you've got your drug company ads, you've got just about everything.

Now, AMA has a substantial lobbying operation in Washington, and I can tell you from plenty of personal experience that MMS is a major presence at the Massachusetts Statehouse. I just wonder whether they would ever think twice about really annoying their principal benefactors.

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