High reprint orders in medical journals and pharmaceutical industry funding: case-control study :
« Reprints of published articles are a potential valuable means of disseminating information. Many individuals and organisations may request reprints, including the authors of the articles themselves, other members of the scientific community, study sponsors, and pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical industry is thought to be the largest purchaser of reprints. After gifts and drug samples, reprints are the most common form of promotional material circulated among doctors by pharmaceutical companies.
Because pharmaceutical companies may buy from journals copies of articles they have funded, reprints of published articles have been suggested as a possible source of conflict of interest that could lead to publication bias. Orders can be worth large sums of money and could potentially influence the chance of a paper being accepted, especially with the current organisational framework, under which editors can be responsible for the journal’s content and its finances. Studies sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry are also more likely to be published in higher impact factor journals than are studies without industry funding.
Data on the numbers of reprints ordered are scarce. One study examined the characteristics of articles published in the Lancet in 1998 in the top 21 of reprint orders and compared these with a set of control articles from the same journal. Reprint orders were not reported in detail, but less than 25% were stated to concern over 100 000 copies. Studies sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry were marginally significantly over-represented in the high reprint group compared with the control articles. Using more recent data we report the number of reprints ordered for the top articles by reprint order in medical journals, identify the sponsors and designs of these studies, and quantify the possible financial implications for journals. »