The editors of the American Journal of Bioethics have issued an "editor's note" in the August issue revealing forty previously undisclosed potential conflicts of interest for six authors of articles in the November 2010 issue of the journal. Those figures do not include six additional authors who failed to respond to the editors' requests for disclosure. Presumably this note was triggered by the recent Senate investigation of the links between the manufacturers of pain drugs and a number of advocacy organizations, including the Center for Practical Bioethics, which used to house the American Journal of Bioethics.
The AJOB editors do not disclose any relationship between pain drug manufacturers and Summer Johnson McGee, the co-editor and former executive editor of the journal. However, Johnson McGee herself disclosed funding from Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, in this 2011 article, and she also disclosed funding from the Pain Action Initiative in another 2011 article co-authored with another AJOB editor, Daniel Goldberg. (The Pain Action Initiative is itself funded by Purdue Pharma and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.) "The monetary source for many of us working on chronic pain is
the pharmaceutical industry,” Johnson McGee was quoted as saying in the Kansas City Star.
Two questions seem important here. First: is there an explanation for Johnson McGee's disclosure of relationships with the pharmaceutical industry in two journals but not in AJOB? Second: if a single issue of a bioethics journal can have this many undisclosed conflicts of interest, what are we supposed to conclude about the other issues of the journal? How did so many authors fail to disclose so many potential conflicts?