Pfizer leans on confidential peer review

The sanctity of peer review is under scrutiny again. Last month Pfizer filed a motion in federal court to force the New England Journal of Medicine to turn over confidential peer review documents for two of their products, Celebrex and Bextra. The company said they need the reviews to help defend themselves in lawsuits involving the two painkillers. But linkurl:Donald Kennedy,;http://www.the-scientist.

By | February 22, 2008

The sanctity of peer review is under scrutiny again. Last month Pfizer filed a motion in federal court to force the New England Journal of Medicine to turn over confidential peer review documents for two of their products, Celebrex and Bextra. The company said they need the reviews to help defend themselves in lawsuits involving the two painkillers. But linkurl:Donald Kennedy,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54292/ editor-in-chief of Science, writes in an linkurl:editorial;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/319/5866/1009 in this week's issue of the journal that the move undermines confidential peer review. Pfizer attorneys said that some of the plaintiffs have cited the literature published in the NEJM on Celebrex and Bextra, and they should be able to search through the peer review communications for material to help strengthen their defense. In a statement Emailed to the Wall Street Journal linkurl:Health Blog,;http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/02/22/pfizer-wants-new-england-journal-to-cough-up-documents/ the company said that "a number of authors and/or medical and scientific journals" were subpoenaed to release peer review information. Kennedy, however, called it a "fishing trip" and wrote that it's a slippery slope if one journal becomes the target of such digging. Would the quality of published science decline if confidential reviews were declassified? Not likely, Richard Gallagher, editor and publisher of The Scientist, wrote in an editorial last May, which you can read linkurl:here.;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/5/1/13/1/ Gallagher proposed that science journals freely open their files after five years from the date a manuscript is published, giving the public the chance to make judgments of their own on the quality of the science, and at the very least, providing some riveting reading.

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