IS IT POSSIBLE FOR ACADEMICS WITH “CONTRARIAN VIEWS” TO GET A FAIR SHAKE IN THE MEDICAL JOURNALS?
Medicine desperately needs a curated platform for open disagreement and civil discourse. Journal editors should embrace the concept warmly. Doing so will revitalize the science of medicine, and will dramatically enhance the diversity of opinions and the breadth of discussion. If we do not welcome contrary viewpoints, we will die listening to our voices in our own echo chamber. What a horrible death! Milton Packer from the study being discussed today One of the most interesting (and pleasant) of the medical community’s unofficial dissidents, cardiologist and expert in academic medicine, DR. MILTON PACKER, is at it again; this time with an article that was published in yesterday’s issue of MedPage Today (Are Editors Determined to Sanitize Medical Journals? …Obstacles Faced by Authors with Contrarian Views). Packer’s article reminded me of something an elite Italian researcher said IN THIS RECENT POST concerning vaccines……
“Earlier this month, Dr Nicola Luigi Bragazzi — a medical doctor with a Ph.D in nanochemistry and nanobiotechnology — of Italy’s University of Genoa, along with a group of researchers from the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases at Israel’s Tel-Aviv University, published a study in the journal Vaccine called Debate on Vaccines and Autoimmunity: Do Not Attack the Author, Yet Discuss it Methodologically. As you might imagine from the study’s title, Bragazzi and company are tired of taking it on the chin for publishing legitimate research findings that are not in lockstep with standard vaccine propaganda.”
Taking it on the chin. Believe me when I tell you that many (many) researchers have taken and continue to “take it on the chin” for their views concerning any number of controversial topics (HERE and HERE are a couple of these individuals). Mind you, we are not talking about opinions here, but about research findings that don’t necessarily jibe with current medial dogma (my post titled “MUZZLED” is another good example). For instance, in the comment section of Dr. Packer’s article, Sydney Singer (author of a book I read years ago; DRESSED TO KILL) talked about the manner in which research showing health problems associated with bras (including BREAST CANCER) continues to be suppressed. As is typically the case, if you want to see real-time, real-life examples of this phenomenon in action, simply read the article’s comment section.
Dr. Packer began his article by revealing something that many people are unaware of unless they regularly follow my EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE COLUMN; the fact that when it comes to medical research and the journals charged with both publishing it and getting it out to the medical community and the public at large, the problems run so deep that nothing, and I do mean nothing, can be trusted without first looking at numerous factors, including who paid for the study or HOW THE RESEARCH WAS DONE. After discussing what modern editorials in today’s medical journals have become, Packer asked the question “Who loses?” Below is his CHERRY-PICKED response to this ETHICAL QUAGMIRE.
“All too often, it is the reader who loses. If readers were expecting enlightenment, a different perspective, or a contrary opinion from the editorial, more likely than not, they will be disappointed. What if the study is terribly flawed and the editorialist does not take notice? Can readers submit criticisms or an alternative viewpoint? They can certainly try, and I wish them luck. If you want to raise concerns about a published article, you could write a letter to the editor. But you need to work fast. Most editors will not accept letters that are submitted more than 3-6 weeks following publication. And they decide what letters get published. Many are reluctant to acknowledge errors. If you want to write a longer piece (i.e., an editorial) that is poised to disagree with a published article, you could send a request to the editors. But do not expect a positive reply. Even if you have valid criticism and points to make, the editors may not be receptive. Why would they publish an editorial that challenges their decision to have published the original work in the first place? Of course, you could decide to write a critical editorial and send it to a different journal. But often that will not work. Many journals have a standing policy that they will not consider editorials that are critical of work published in other journals. (Disclosure: I hold editorial positions at Circulation and the European Heart Jour”
Packer went on to discuss numerous other issues with the process, including the fact that the very people who will review your letter-to-the-editor are usually THE VERY PEOPLE WHO REVIEWED THE RESEARCH in the first place. Are they ready to “take it on the chin“? Doubtful. I don’t know many people who like like getting punched in the face, including Packer himself. Not to pick on Dr. P because he is undoubtedly a guy I would enjoy shooting the breeze with on the CURRENT RIVER. But as an editor of the prestigious journal of the American Heart Association, Circulation, some would argue that Dr. Packer is doing the very same thing. Just remember not to ask Dr. Vasquez his opinion.
Although in certain circumstances he would fulfill the definition of a “contrarian” (something I’ve been accused of at times myself); as a person holding naturopathic, chiropractic and medical degrees as well as a post-doctorate fellowship in nutrition (not to mention the several areas of research he is actively involved in), Dr. Alex Vasquez is a sharp guy and formidable debate opponent. It makes me wonder whether at least one of his recent ‘disagreements’ with both the American College of Cardiology and the AHA (see below) ran through Packer’s office. What am I talking about? Using some of Dr. Alex’s recent articles, allow me to show you exactly how big journals are squelching “contrarian” opinions that might — in these cases, “are” would be a better word — upsetting the medical fruit basket.
- The ASCEND Study on Fish Oil from the New England Journal of Medicine (and touted by the ACC in their article, ASCEND: Use of Aspirin and Fish Oil Supplements in Diabetic Patients) fraudulently and unethically showed fish oil in a bad light for the sole purpose of promoting a new-fangled patented and medicalized version of fish oil (HERE and HERE). In fact, when I Googled “ASCEND Study Fish Oil”, the first thing that came up was an ad for — you guessed it — the drug Vascepa
- Another study by the ACC, this one concerning nutritional supplements for heart disease, was challenged by Dr. Vasquez on his website. Why on his website? Because their journal refused to publish a rebuttal (HERE).
- Other research that Dr. Vasquez likewise weighed in on heavily was the AHA’s 2017 study showing that coconut oil , as well as saturated fats in general, are harmful (HERE). For the record, I should note that my earlier “quagmire” link connects you with Dr. Alex’s version of the “echo chamber” mentioned by Dr. Packer in his quote at the top of the page.
The point is this. Be careful who you believe, myself included. Double check everything and assume that online personalities are simply trying to sell you something until proven otherwise. As far as helping yourself with the root of most modern diseases, heart disease included, be sure and learn what it takes to start addressing systemic inflammation in your life (HERE). And if you appreciate what you are finding on our site, be sure and help spread the wealth by liking, sharing, or following on FACEBOOK since it’s a viable way to reach the people you love and value most.