Leading medical journals restrict access to pharma industry research

21 June 2019

Leading medical journals restrict access to industry-funded research, shows a study conducted by researchers at Oxford PharmaGenesis, published in BMJ Open today. This is likely to impede further research and delay patient benefit.

The study shows that, although 60% of high-impact medical journals provide immediate open access under the gold standard Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, 95% of these offered this option only to authors funded by non-commercial organizations. Just one journal included in the analysis (The BMJ) offered a CC BY licence to any funder who requires it, even pharma companies.

“Our research shows, for the first time, that the availability of open access options depends on the funding source”, comments Tim Ellison, Senior Medical Writer at Oxford PharmaGenesis and lead author of the article. He goes on to say, “Open access publishing is important because it ensures that anyone anywhere in the world has free access to high-quality, peer-reviewed evidence. Academic research funders, such as the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and open access initiatives like Plan S, are increasingly requiring that research is published open access under a licence that allows the broadest possible use. By not offering authors reporting commercially funded research this option, most leading medical journals’ policies are not aligned with open access guidelines.”

Tim Koder, Communications Director at Oxford PharmaGenesis and co-author, says,
“Journals currently restrict access to medical research funded by the pharma industry – that’s half of medical research, including most of the evidence supporting new medicines. If pharma joined non-commercial funders in requiring open access under a gold standard CC BY licence, then leading journals would need to change their policies or stop publishing industry-funded research.” Chris Winchester, CEO of Oxford PharmaGenesis and another co-author of the article, adds, “At Oxford PharmaGenesis, we are proud to be advancing medical publishing by the pharma industry as part of Open Pharma and by conducting our own research. This led us to update our publication policy to commit to publishing our own research open access under a CC BY licence. We are delighted that The BMJ has honoured that commitment and hope this will encourage others to follow our lead.”