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Ruling in Pfizer Case Protects Peer Review Confidentiality

Judge rejects subpoena by Pfizer to obtain unpublished editorial comments

TUESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- In a ruling that upholds the confidentiality of the peer review process, a judge has denied a motion requested by the attorneys for Pfizer, Inc. that two medical journals turn over unpublished editorial judgments and peer review comments of articles pertaining to celecoxib and valdecoxib, according to an editorial published online March 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Catherine D. DeAngelis, M.D., and Joseph P. Thornton, J.D., Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Counsel for JAMA, respectively, report on the Pfizer litigation that threatened the confidentiality of the journal peer review process.

As a defendant in more than 3,000 lawsuits alleging improper marketing of the cyclooxygenase 2 inhibitors celecoxib and valdecoxib, Pfizer had issued subpoenas to JAMA and Archives of Internal Medicine that the journals turn over all documents pertaining to the two drugs, including unpublished editorial and peer review comments. The federal district court in Chicago ultimately ruled in favor of the journals, denying Pfizer's subpoenas. The judge remarked that since this unpublished information had been kept confidential from Pfizer, the general public and the medical community at large, it could not have impacted Pfizer's advertising or marketing decisions.

DeAngelis and Thornton remark on the necessity of confidentiality in the peer review process: "We firmly believe that ensured confidentiality of reviews allows reviewers to provide professional critiques of manuscripts without fearing potential repercussions from authors."

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