ISDB bulletins have different policies on this (see Box 7.5). The selection of reviewers, as well as the selection of authors, raises the problem of conflicts of interest. It is easy to ensure that a few authors or a close editorial team have no conflicts of interest. It becomes more difficult with external reviewers especially when their number increases. Some bulletins ask reviewers to inform them in confidence of any conflicts of interest, or anything which may influence or bias their comments (e.g. Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin). In some cases known conflicts of interest do not prevent a bulletin from sending a draft to a reviewer. A biased opinion can be helpful. If there are weaknesses in a critical argument or if important information has been left out, a biased reviewer will be quick to notice this and point it out.
Box 7.5 Should the pharmaceutical industry see articles before publication?
Some bulletins send articles to pharmaceutical companies, before publication, preferring to get any legitimate corrections or comments before, rather than after, publication. Other bulletins choose not to, in order to avoid wasting time going back and forth with comments and counter-comments before publication. If articles are well-referenced and care is taken to present correct, unbiased information, complaints after publication are rare. If a company does send a complaint, it can easily be published in the bulletin (or put on its web site) with an editorial comment.
Whether or not an article should be sent to the pharmaceutical industry also depends on the topic. Some bulletins do this when the evidence is scarce or hidden, as on some side effects. The time between review and publication needs to be short to prevent the company from organizing a counter campaign at publication time.
If you choose to ask industry to review drafts, as with other reviewers it is important to remember your primary goals: presenting the evidence in a fair, unbiased manner, and keeping patients’ best interests in mind. New bulletins should also remember that even if you do not send a draft to companies directly, they might get it from an expert who has received the draft for review.