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, 14 (2), e0211495

Industry Payments to Physician Journal Editors


Industry Payments to Physician Journal Editors

Victoria S S Wong et al. PLoS One.


Background: Open Payments is a United States federal program mandating reporting of medical industry payments to physicians, increasing transparency of physician conflicts of interest (COI). Study objectives were to assess industry payments to physician-editors, and to compare their financial COI rate to all physicians within the specialty.

Methods and findings: We performed a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data, reviewing Open Payments from August 1, 2013 to December 31, 2016. We reviewed general payments ("… not made in connection with a research agreement") and research funding to "top tier" physician-editors of highly-cited medical journals. We compared payments to physician-editors and physicians-by-specialty. In 35 journals, 333 (74.5%) of 447 "top tier" US-based editors met inclusion criteria. Of these, 212 (63.7%) received industry-associated payments in the study period. In an average year, 141 (42.3%) of physician-editors received any direct payments to themselves including general payments and research payments, 66 (19.8%) received direct payments >$5,000 (National Institutes of Health threshold for a Significant Financial Interest) and 51 (15.3%) received >$10,000. Mean annual general payments to physician-editors was $55,157 (median 3,512, standard deviation 561,885, range 10-10,981,153). Median general payments to physician-editors were mostly higher compared to all physicians within their specialty. Mean annual direct research payment to the physician-editor was $14,558 (median 4,000, range 15-174,440). Mean annual indirect research funding to the physician-editor's institution (highly valued by academic leaders such as departmental chairs and deans) was $175,282 (median 49,107, range 0.18-5,000,000). The main study limitation was difficulty identifying physician-editors primarily responsible for making manuscript decisions.

Conclusions: A substantial minority of physician-editors receive payments from industry within any given year, sometimes quite large. Most editors received payment of some kind during the four-year study period. Given the extent of editors' influences on the medical literature, more robust and accessible editor financial COI declarations are recommended.

Conflict of interest statement

I have read the journal's policy and the authors of this manuscript have the following competing interests: Michael L. Callaham is paid a stipend by the American College of Emergency Physicians to edit their peer reviewed journal. Otherwise, all authors have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. This does not alter our adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.


Fig 1
Fig 1. Mean industry payments to physician-editors by year with standard deviations.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Proportion of physician-editors receiving payments directed to themselves beyond various arbitrary thresholds, 2013 to 2016.

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Cited by 2 PubMed Central articles


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Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.