I was sent an article from Natural News and am trying to check the claims [1]. One of them is as follows:

The British Medical Journal also failed to disclose that its own finances are largely funded by vaccine manufacturers who fill the journal with paid advertising, and that such financial ties may have influenced the journal's decision to attempt to destroy the reputation of a researcher whose findings threatened the profits of its top sponsors. If you follow the money in this story, in other words, it leads right to the editors of BMJ, whose salaries are effectively financed by vaccine manufacturers. This all-important conflict of interest is almost never discussed in the mainstream media, by the way.

My questions:

  • Can anyone point me to a source regarding the BMJ's funding sources?
  • Is there any evidence to support the specific statement that "its own finances are largely funded by vaccine manufactueres"? I'd call largely perhaps > 25%, but I have no idea what this source's criteria are. I don't have access to the full journal, but I would find it interesting if someone looked through ~5 of them and created a list of all the ads. I realize that's a ton of work (depending on the length), but it would help quantify the amount of ads being purchased by vaccine manufacturer.
  • Does anyone have a ballpark on how much a journal ad costs?
  • Does anyone have data on typical sources of income for journals of this approximate readership size (all from ads? Sponsorships? Other sources?)

Thanks for any input. I'm hoping to respond to the sender, as I am suspicious of the claims, especially from Natural News as they always tend to be extremely bold with claims and extremely lacking in sources (except pointing to other extremely similar sites like Mercola).

Edit: I found some of my own answers just now, but not the specifics I was looking for. The BMJ discussed receiving funding from Merck and GSK and have a list of revenue sources (type, not source), but no figures that I've found yet. [2] [3]

[1] http://www.naturalnews.com/031117_BMJ_Dr_Andrew_Wakefield.html
[2] http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d1335.full/reply#bmj_el_251470
[3] http://group.bmj.com/group/about/revenue-sources

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    Note that Natural News is run by Truth Publishing, a for-profit publishing company which is largely funded by obvious quackery in book form. Whether or not their claims of funding are true has no bearing on the facts of Wakefield's misrepresentations and fraud. – horatio Jun 1 '11 at 16:56
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    It's interesting that Natural News' claims of fraud on the part of BMJ and Brian Deer hinge solely upon one part of BMJ's revenue, while they defend a "researcher" who himself was blatantly funded from a biased source. I also find it highly suspect that their "articles" are little more than thinly-disguised ads for Wakefield's book... Regardless, though, @horatio is right -- where BMJ gets its funding isn't relevant to the integrity (or, rather, the lack thereof) in Wakefield's "research", the evidence of which is there now for anyone to see. – Kromey Jun 1 '11 at 17:09
  • @horatio @Kromey : good points re. funding source not having any effect on the studies. I'm still curious about the allegation, somewhat because I can't find any figures myself -- thus, where did Nat News get theirs? Interesting point re. Nat News funding sources! – Hendy Jun 1 '11 at 17:44
  • See also the excellent answer to this question:skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/4108/… – DJClayworth Jun 2 '11 at 13:40
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    @Christian Your comment is what we at Skeptics call "speculation without any evidence" and has no place on this site. – DJClayworth Jun 12 '11 at 18:13

I am a brit whose family are doctors and am training to be one myself.

  1. The BMJ is run out of advertisements and out of subscriptions like any magazine. It is part of the British Medical Association which is the trade union for doctors (the medical board that tests and registers doctors to ensure they are up to scratch is the General Medical Council). The cost is roughly a £100 a year and there are multiple journals that are more specific. The BMJ is a general medicine journal and usually you get one of the other journals more pertaining to your field. For example I would get the Student BMJ (student journals) and the real BMJ to keep abreast of medical writing. Doctors also submit non-medical work to the BMJ such as history and anecdotes. The BMJ is an informal journal, think of it as a doctors-only Scientific American or a New Scientist. The BMJ's individual journals are all serious though.

  2. Majority of the cash used for its running of the magazine since it is peer reviewed. The BMJ actively states that it can only run adverts for peer reviewed and tested drugs, and only to doctors who are more interested in statistics than in shiny adverts.

  3. Pricing of advertising

Most of the BMJ is to act as a medical journal. People submit papers and the journal prints them. And anyone who says that vaccines don't work is outright lying. The amount of time, money and effort saved as a whole is phenomenal.

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    Thanks for the answer -- can you explain the bit: "...and only to doctors who are more interested in statistics than shiny adverts"? Thanks! – Hendy Jun 12 '11 at 15:15
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    Doctors are harder to take in with advertisements. Most want to know efficiency, cost, side effects. Things that matter when a drug comes up. The advert for viagra shows a happy man and his wife enjoying life possibly after indicating their relationship was on the ropes but it doesn't show the CVS issues that can occur. Advertising like that is meant to sell you viagra rather than tell your doctor to prescribe it. Most doctor based advertising is ironically in document bags, prescription pads and pens. Really crummy cheap stuff. – Avicenna Last Jun 13 '11 at 16:13
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    The first two bullet points aren't referenced. – Andrew Grimm Jun 14 '11 at 13:14
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    Point 1 contains a significant error in terminology (not really critical to the point made but likely to confuse). The General Medical Council has nothing to do with the BMJ and is the statutory regulator for medics in the UK. The doctors' union (no more nationalised than any other union) in the British Medical Association, whose publishing arm runs the BMJ. This makes quite a lot of money from selling information services which, I think, gives it a degree of independence from advertisers in its journals. – matt_black Oct 2 '11 at 0:54
  • Point 2: "Majority of the cash used for it's running of the magazine since it is peer reviewed." --> peer reviewers are typically not paid. Is it different in BMJ? – Franck Dernoncourt Dec 4 '16 at 17:10

The BMJ does state that it's funded by pharmaceutical manufacturers, with display advertising listed on its revenue page: http://group.bmj.com/group/about/revenue-sources

It's also sponsored by pharmaceutical companies: "Only reputable pharmaceutical companies licensed to operate in the territory in question or other ethical sponsors can be considered for sponsorship of subscriptions." Link: group.bmj.com/group/advertising/policy/sponsored-subscriptions (I can only post two hyperlinks, so that one is partial)

On the page where they list the policy for acceptance of advertisements ( http://group.bmj.com/group/advertising/policy/acceptance-of-adverts ) you will see that they have fairly low requirements for advertising alcohol sales, tobacco company recruitment, patent slimming products, and even escort agencies, provided that they conform to the guidelines of the British Code of Advertising and Sales Promotion.

It does however demand peer reviewed research papers be submitted before a manufacturer of vitamins or mineral supplements may place an ad. I mention this because it goes to whether the BMJ is biased towards "big pharma" and other big industries, even where they may arguably cause serious harm to some consumers.

If I get the opportunity to find verifiable (and linkable) amounts of these revenues from pharmaceutical companies, I will post them, for people to draw their own conclusions.

  • They also get a considerable amount of money from the subscription fees. The advertisment policies look more like a legal matter, the ads you'll find in a scientific journal are anyway far different than what you'd find in a random magazine. – Mad Scientist Nov 28 '11 at 19:21
  • Since we've not been able to ascertain the amounts yet, that's not disputed. The issue is, are they funded in part by pharmaceutical companies and their own website states that fact. To go from there to complicity is a reach, nonetheless I was surprised they accept payments from tobacco companies and alcohol manufacturers. I have (or at least had) no beef with them, I was merely answering the question since I had the links to hand. – Hunter Nov 28 '11 at 19:29
  • The policy about alcohol and tobacco companies probably doesn't matter because those wouldn't advertise in the BMJ anyway. The scientific journals usually have ads targeted to scientists, e.g. for laboratory equipment. The whole part about that on the website reads like legal boilerplate to me. – Mad Scientist Nov 28 '11 at 19:33
  • With respect, do you have any proof that alcohol and tobacco companies "probably wouldn't" or don't advertise in there? Tobacco companies weren't above using psuedoscience to sell their product in the past lane.stanford.edu/tobacco/index.html. The issue is that the door is stated as being open to them, also to escort agencies - these do not seem like things beneficial to most people's health, therefore that opens the idea that the BMJ will turn away from the best interests of patients when offered advertsing revenue. – Hunter Nov 28 '11 at 19:40
  • I've looked through a fair share of scientific journals myself, the advertisments in there were nothing like you would get in a normal magazine, they were targeted towards the scientists reading those journals. And the ads are getting less important nowadays as most people don't read the printed version anymore, but get the online copies of the articles without ads. I don't have any hard numbers though, just personal experience. – Mad Scientist Nov 28 '11 at 19:55

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