In an editorial published early online today, JAMA Editor-in-Chief Catherine D. DeAngelis, M.D., M.P.H., and JAMA Editorial Counsel Joseph P. Thornton, J.D., write about a recent court ruling regarding litigation involving JAMA and the Archives of Internal Medicine (AIM) “that significantly threatened the integrity of our peer review process.”
Attorneys for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Inc. had issued subpoenas last year to obtain confidential information from the journals concerning studies published on the pain relief medications called COX-2 inhibitors – (cyclooxygenase 2 inhibitors) celecoxib and valdecoxib.
“… the subpoenas sought all documents regarding the decision to accept or reject manuscripts, copies of rejected manuscripts, the identities of peer reviewers and the manuscripts they reviewed, and the comments by and among peer reviewers and editor regarding manuscripts, revisions, and publication decisions. For months, JAMA and AIM consistently argued that the sanctity of the confidential peer review process should not be violated.”
“In a ruling issued March 14, 2008, the Court agreed with JAMA and AIM that information kept confidential from Pfizer, the general public, and the medical community at large was irrelevant to the pending claims.”
“… JAMA and our Archives journals have historically and deliberately kept unpublished manuscripts and peer review comments confidential. This promise to reviewers and authors allows the peer review process to work in an unrestrained environment.”
“The subpoenas attempted to invade the peer review process, and we are delighted that Magistrate Judge Keys said so when he ruled they could not be enforced against us.”
The editorial has been published early online because of its timeliness and importance. It will appear in the April 23/30, 2008, print issue of JAMA.
JAMA. (doi:10.1001/jama.299.16.jed80000.) Available online at www.JAMA.com.
No financial disclosures reported.