Context: Editorial management of articles on health economics may benefit from guidelines for peer review and revision.
Objective: To assess whether publication (in August 1996) of the BMJ guidelines on peer review of economics submissions made any difference to editorial and peer review processes, quality of submitted manuscripts, and quality of published manuscripts.
Design and setting: Before-after study conducted in the editorial offices of BMJ and The Lancet of the effect of the BMJ guidelines on review and revision of economics submissions, defined as those making explicit comments about resource allocation and/or costs of interventions.
Main outcome measures: Editorial fate and changes in the quality of submissions.
Results: A total of 2982 manuscripts were submitted to the 2 journals during the before periods, 105 (3.5%) of which were economics submissions. Of these, 27 (24.3%) were full economics evaluations, and 78 (75.7%) were other economics submissions. Overall acceptance rate was 11.6% (12/105). During the after period 2077 manuscripts were submitted to the 2 journals, 87 (4.2%) of which were economics submissions. Eighteen (20.7%) were full economics evaluations, and 69 (79.3%) were other economics submissions. Overall acceptance rate was 6.9% (6/87). Although a number of manuscripts could not be traced to determine whether they were economics submissions, there appeared to be little difference between the 2 journals in numbers or editorial fate of the manuscripts. There was no change in the quality of submitted manuscripts, but BMJ editors found the guidelines and checklists useful and sent fewer economics submissions for external peer review in the after phase.
Conclusions: Publication of the guidelines helped the BMJ editors improve the efficiency of the editorial process but had no impact on the quality of economics evaluations submitted or published.