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04 March 2006

Women's health & privacy, journalists' independence imperiled and compromised in Canada

EDITORIAL NOTE from Agence-Vleeptron Presse:

Vleeptron does not carry ads or links to commercial sites (unless they sell something really freaky-geeky).

In this post, however, A-VP carries a link to a website from the manufacturer of Plan B
®, Duramed Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a subsidiary of Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

A-VP ain't making a penny from this link. We're providing it because Plan B
® is pretty new on the US/Canada market, and our readers may benefit from some detailed information about this contraceptive medicine.

If you've missed the recent controversy about the availability of Plan B
® in Wal-Mart's pharmacies, Leave A Comment, we'll try to filch some news about it for you.

The link below is the manufacturer's site, so use it as a first resource, but don't make choices about Plan B
® without further research or without first consulting your gynecologist or obstetrician. (You can also consult your foot doctor, but that just wouldn't make any sense.)

Plan B
® contains the hormone levonorgestrel, and is different from RU-486, commonly referred to in the media as "The Morning After Pill."

Oh, okay, both these medicines are Political and Religious SuperHot Potatoes. If you want some Controversy, Leave A Comment. We ain't scared.

~ ~ ~

The New York Times
Wednesday 22 February 2006

Canadian Medical Group
Fires Top Editors of Journal


OTTAWA, Feb. 21 -- The Canadian Medical Association has dismissed the top two editors of its peer-reviewed journal in a move that some in medical circles said was related to a prolonged dispute over editorial independence.

The dismissal on Monday of Dr. John Hoey, the editor of The Canadian Medical Association Journal, and Anne Marie Todkill, its senior deputy editor, was not followed by a public announcement.

Graham Morris, the president of CMA Media, said that the dismissals were not tied to a dispute over an article late last year about difficulties that Canadian women experienced in purchasing Plan B, a nonprescription morning-after birth control pill. After receiving complaints from a pharmacists' association, the medical association ordered the editors to remove a substantial portion of that article before it was published.

"Dr. Hoey was at The Journal for 10 years," said Mr. Morris. "I felt it was time for a fresher approach." Mr. Morris said that he strongly supported the editorial independence of The Journal. But Mr. Morris's explanation found little support among editorial board members.

"I don't think it's credible to suggest that that at this point in time there's a need to refresh the C.M.A.J.," said Dr. Philip J. Devereaux, a board member who is a cardiologist and researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. "There is no question about the huge advances The Journal has made under John and Anne Marie."

Another editorial board member, Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer, the former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine and a professor at Tufts University [Boston USA], said that he believed that the dismissals were linked to a draft report on the journal's editorial independence that he issued late Friday.

"I don't think there's any doubt that this is related," Dr. Kassirer said from Boston. "I find the response of the C.M.A. to be reprehensible."

Dr. Kassirer headed a committee that looked at the handling of the Plan B article.

Late last year, Dr. Hoey and other editors asked 13 women to buy the drug at pharmacies across Canada. To their surprise, the editors discovered that because of guidelines from the Canadian Pharmacists Association, all the women were asked for personal information, sometimes including sexual histories, that was entered into computer databases.

The medical group learned about the article through a telephone call from the pharmacy group. It subsequently ordered a description of the women's experiences to be cut from the article. The association told Dr. Hoey that the women's buying forays were not reporting but scientific research and should have been subjected to peer review and ethical oversight.

Dr. Kassirer said that his review group rejected that idea in its draft report. "It was legitimate reporting and legitimate news," he said.

While his report criticized the association for interfering, Dr. Kassirer said the journal's editors should not have yielded to the publisher's demands. The editors did post an online editorial criticizing the association for its actions.

Mr. Morris said he had not seen the report and said its timing in relation to the dismissals was a coincidence. Both Dr. Hoey and Ms. Todkill declined to comment.

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