GSK Urges European Heart Journal to Censor Nissen, Journal Refuses

Steven E. Nissen, Cleveland Clinic cardiologist at the center of the Avandia controversy.An editorial printed on April 23, 2010, by the European Heart Journal (EHJ) revealed that GlaxoSmithKline urged the journal’s editors not to publish a previous online editorial written by Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Steven Nissen. Nissen has been at the center of the Avandia controversy since 2007, when he became the first person to draw attention to the diabetes pill and its link to major heart problems.

This all began on February 12, 2010, when Nissen’s editorial was printed in the online version of the EHJ. Nissen’s editorial ran alongside an analysis of GSK-funded Avandia research. A few weeks later on February 21, GSK’s research chief Dr. Moncef Slaoui wrote a letter to the editors strongly urging them to refrain from publishing Nissen’s editorial in print.

Slaoui wrote, “We [GSK] strongly disagree with several key points within the editorial, most importantly those which imply misconduct on the part of GSK…On this basis, GSK believes that it is necessary for the journal to withdraw this editorial from the website and refrain from publishing it in hard copy, until the journal has investigated these inaccuracies and unsubstantiated allegations.” The letter also stated that Nissen’s editorial was “rife with inaccurate representations and speculation that fall well outside the realm of accepted scientific debate.” The letter then went on to list the facts within the editorial GSK believed were false.

Ultimately, the editors at EHJ refused to give in to GSK’s unusual demand, calling it “unacceptable.” Not only did EHJ print Nissen’s original editorial in their April 23 publication, the journal also printed GSK’s letter along with an editorial which seemed to reprimand the pharmaceutical giant.

The journal stated, “The journal’s editorial board discussed the issue and unanimously agreed that such a demand was unacceptable…Science is an interactive process and that is why journals are optimally positioned to promote this process... However, we cannot suppress concerns, data or divergent opinions - we must consider them and argue with data, numbers and plausibility. Only through such a discourse can progress evolve.” 

EHJ also gave Nissen an opportunity to defend himself and his data. Also printed in the April 23 edition of EHJ was a point-by-point rebuttal by Nissen.; May 3, 2010: Glaxo Tells Journal Editors To Censor Steve Nissen   

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