Peer Reviewer of Denture-Cream Article Failed to Disclose P&G Ties
Because I am a subscriber to Neurology (as an active member of the American Academy of Neurology), this e-mail popped up in my inbox yesterday.
Dear Readers of Neurology,
A story aired last night on World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer disclosing that Dr. Kenneth Shay was on the payroll of, or a consultant to, Proctor and Gamble at the time he peer-reviewed an article authored by Dr. Sharon Nations that was published in 2008 in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Neurology has a well-established and well-known policy at http://www.neurology.org/site/misc/info_review.xhtml that authors and reviewers must disclose conflicts of interest. Dr. Shay did not disclose any conflict of interest to the Editor-in-Chief of Neurology. Furthermore, it appears that Dr. Shay improperly shared the manuscript authored by Dr. Sharon Nations to Proctor and Gamble, in violation of the journal’s confidentiality policy. The American Academy of Neurology considers any violation of these ethics policies to be egregious misconduct, and the Academy’s General Counsel is reviewing its options with the editors.
Physician reviewers must disclose all conflicts of interest in order to maintain the integrity of Neurology, which is the world’s most widely read and highly cited peer-reviewed neurology journal.
Regarding reports that the publication of Dr. Nations’ article was delayed by two years, much of the delay was a result of the time it took the authors to resubmit a revision; the editorial office’s review procedure was in line with standard time frames.
We hope you continue to enjoy reading Neurology. We welcome feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org on this and any other issues.
Robert A. Gross, MD, PhD, FAAN
The e-mail refers to this formulaic write-up (ABC News’s “Cuomo on the Case”*) of a class-action personal-injury suit, in which plaintiffs are alleging that zinc in Fixodent denture cream (made by P&G) caused their neurologic damage.
The peer-reviewed article in question, published in Neurology in 2008, was featured at this blog (here), at the time of its publication. The study, a small case report, described 4 patients who developed myeloneuropathy (much like what would be expected with severe vitamin B12 deficiency) due to zinc overload (which chelates copper). The subjects, as it turns out, were massive consumers of zinc-containing denture cream (like 2 tubes per day).
Dr. Kennethy Shay, a dentist, was evidently one of the peer reviewers of the Neurology article, who (according to Dr. Gross’s e-mail) failed to disclose his financial tie(s) to P&G. In the ABC News piece, the authors of the case report claim that Dr. Shay somehow delayed publication of their study; however, Dr. Gross implies in his e-mail that this was not so.