Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

A bad start to 2011 for JAMA/Archives embargoes

with one comment

It hasn’t been a good week for embargoes at JAMA and the Archives journals.

JAMA lifted the embargo early today, at 2:08 p.m. Eastern, on a study of whether doctors are following guidelines for implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). The study, embargoed until 4 p.m. Eastern, found that many weren’t.

There were actually two embargo breaks on this one. The first was an item on MedicalNewsToday (now taken down). It was at the request of director of media relations Jann Ingmire that the site took down the story, and JAMA didn’t lift the embargo at that point.

However, after the second break, a note from a JP Morgan analyst, JAMA decided to lift the embargo early. That memo started with this:

An early write-up of this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is catching the Street’s attention and weighing on the ICD stocks. The data, we think, is of value, but the conclusions drawn by the author, in our view, couldn’t be more off-base.

It went on from there, including a lot of details about the data and the study authors’ conclusions. It’s not the first time a JP Morgan note has shown up before a study’s embargo has lifted. That’s what happened with two NEJM studies in July, irritating Adam Feuerstein of TheStreet.com as it usually (and rightfully) does. Then, NEJM didn’t lift the embargo early. I think JAMA did the right thing this time.

This wasn’t the only embargo break this week for a JAMA/Archives journal, either. Yesterday, Sixty Second Parent posted an item before the embargo lifted on an Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine study showing that kids were getting more infections with Clostridium difficilebefore the embargo lifted. In that case, however, Ingmire and her staff were all on holiday, so the embargo broke in the forest without anyone hearing it. (Hurrah for mixed metaphors.)

I’m going to tweak Ingmire slightly on this. (I’ve praised her for running a very good shop in the past, by the way, and this doesn’t change that, since it seems to be a one-time case.) I think there has to be someone available to respond to possible embargo breaks for at least a day before one is scheduled to lift. I realize that’s a burden, but it’s the cost of doing business as an embargoing institution.

By the way, that was a bit of deja vu too, dating back to the summer: Something similar happened to PNAS over the July 4 holiday, although that involved some confusion over when the embargo was lifting.

Hat tips: Rachael Rettner for the Sixty Second Parent post, Larry Husten for the MedicalNewsToday post, and Shelley Wood for the JP Morgan note. And thanks to Mary Beckman (comment below), Patric Lane, and my Retraction Watch co-blogger Adam Marcus for pointing out that I seemed to be suggesting, in the struck-through text above, that lifting embargoes could be a vaccine against C. difficile. Unintentional, I assure you…


Written by Ivan Oransky

January 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. “Yesterday, Sixty Second Parent posted on an Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine study showing that kids were getting more infections with Clostridium difficile before the embargo lifted.”

    Obviously, embargoes contribute to infection.

    Mary Beckman

    January 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm

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