Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Laughable response from 'antibiotics for back pain' author

These are the simple facts:

1. Two authors (Albert and Manniche) were named MAST company directors in 2010.

2. 'Antibiotics for back pain' study submitted to European Spine Journal in 2012.

3. No conflicts of interest declared in submission by both authors despite the fact that this company could potentially directly profit as a result of the study's findings.

The author's letter has just been published in the European Spine Journal and it states:

"The study was conducted from 2007 and the last one year control was carried out in late 2009. After the independent statistical analysis was done, the paper was written and then sent to the first Journal in 2010."

It is irrelevant when the study was sent to the first journal, the author is obfuscating in the extreme, it was submitted to the ESJ in 2012, 2 years after both authors were named MAST company directors.  The second justification for the undeclared conflicts of interest are:

"Since the company was nothing but ‘‘an idea’’ until after e-pub, there was no conflict of interest to declare."

Actually the company was more than 'idea', it was a proper limited company when the paper was submitted.  It is worth going back the the ESJ's guidelines on conflict of interest, it makes the author's claim look flimsy to say the least:

"Conflict (if none, “None” or describe financial interest/arrangement with one or more organizations that could be perceived as a real or apparent conflict of interest in the context of the subject of this article)"

The conflict is perceived, real and apparent in the context of the subject of the article.  The author does continue to obfuscate by digressing into details about the MAST company and try to paint herself as the 'disheartened' victim of an attack.  Sadly this is completely irrelevant, MAST is a company and she is a director of this company, and she should have declared this.  If the intentions of the company are benevolent, then why not simply declare it as the conflict of interest which it still is?

It is breathtaking, dumbfounding and utterly farcical that the author feels she can justify the failing to declare her clear conflicts of interest, she is clearly in breach of the ESJ's clear guidelines on this very topic.  The Editor's failure to enforce these guidelines and allow the publication of this laughable defence speaks volumes.  The Journal appears to value publicity over ethics and standards.  

The author and ESJ would have done better to simply apologise and admit the undeclared conflicts of interest.  Instead they have tried to justify the overtly unjustifiable, they have aggressively defended the blatantly incorrect, they have obfuscated and they continue to do all this.  Personally I am not impressed with this at all and it is precisely this kind of behaviour that makes an absolute mockery of peer review.  To be accused of 'attacking' the author for daring to point out a clear undeclared conflict of interest is rich, to say the least.  I am just pointing out clear objective facts which the author and European Spine Journal continue to ignore.

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