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Industry payments to physician journal editors


Wong, Victoria S. S.; Avalos, Laurel N.; Callaham, Michael L. (2018), Industry payments to physician journal editors, v3, UC San Francisco Dash, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.7272/Q6PK0DBK


Background: Open Paymentsis a United States federal program mandating reporting of medical industry payments to physicians, thereby 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 Paymentsfrom August 1, 2013 to December 31, 2016. We reviewed general payments (“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 to physicians-by-specialty. In 35 journals, 333 (74.5%) of 447 “top tier” editors met inclusion criteria (US-based physician-editors). 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 rather than their institutions; includes general payments and research payments), 66 (19.8%) received direct payments >$5,000 (threshold designated by the National Institutes of Health as a Significant Financial Interest) and 51 (15.3%) received direct payments >$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, standard deviation 34,471, range 15-174,440), and mean annual indirect research funding to the physician-editor’s institution was $175,282 (median 49,107, standard deviation 479,480, range 0.18-5,000,000). The main study limitation was difficulty in identifying “top tier” physician-editors. Though we aimed to study physician-editors primarily responsible for making manuscript decisions, we were unable to confirm each editor’s role.


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



Dataset was collected from Physician Payments government database (publicly available to all), and by a serarch of senior editors of selected journals. The data filed here represent our descriptive statistics and summary of those data.

Usage Notes

Understanding of the original database, familiarity with citation data, and the medical journal literature.


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