A Wall Street Journal article discusses the role of the New England Journal of Medicine in the Vioxx affair (1). An aspect of the article that caught my attention was the attempt by a pharmacist, Dr. Jennifer Hrachovec, to make known the dangers of Vioxx.
She first tried to do this during a radio call in show which had as one of its guests, Jeffrey Drazen, the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. He blew off her comments.
She next submitted a Letter to the editor to the New England Journal of Medicine. It was rejected.
Finally, she was able to get a Letter published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.
I can relate to this sequence of events and suggest that part of the problem is that however relevant and correct a person is on an issue, the person’s issue may not be taken seriously if that person is not “a member of the club”. Journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine have so many submissions that they are always looking for ways to reject papers. I suspect that one criteria used is simply the status of the person submitting the paper. Fortunately, Dr. Hrachovec persisted. For me, when someone blows off my comments, it is a source of motivation, and I have had my share of rejected Letters.
- Bitter Pill How the New England Journal Missed Warning Signs on Vioxx. David Armstrong Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2006, page A1.