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Doubt cast on evidence for annual flu programme

Industry-sponsored studies are more likely to be published in prominent journals and more highly cited despite not being bigger or better than independent research, a leading academic researcher has claimed.

Dr Tom Jefferson, coordinator of the Cochrane Vaccines Field and an outspoken commentator on the validity of the annual flu vaccination program, assessed 274 for their methodological quality, journal impact factor and citation rates in the scientific literature.

The found no association between the quality of the study and how prestigious a journal it was published in, or how many times the study was cited in subsequent papers.

The researchers found the source of sponsorship – namely industry funding – was the strongest predictor of which journal a study was published in and how many citations it received.

Dr Jefferson concluded in the article published in the BMJ today that: ‘The study shows that one of the levers for accessing prestige journals is the financial size of your sponsor. Pharmaceutical sponsors order many reprints of studies supporting their products, often with in-house translations into many languages.

‘They will also purchase publicity space on the journal. Many publishers openly advertise these services on their website. It is time journals made a full disclosure of their sources of funding.'

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