Background Almost all medical journals now require authors to publicly disclose conflicts of interests (COI). The same standard and scrutiny is rarely employed for the editors of the journals although COI may affect editorial decisions. Methods We conducted a retrospective observational study to determine the prevalence and magnitude of financial relationships among editors of 60 influential US medical journals (10 each for internal medicine and five subspecialties: cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, dermatology and allergy & immunology). Open Payments database was reviewed to determine the percentage of physician editors receiving payments and the nature and amount of these payments. Findings 703 unique physician editors were included in our analysis. 320/703 (46%) received 8659 general payments totaling $8,120,562. The median number of payments per editor was 9 (IQR 3–26) and the median amount per payment was $91 (IQR $21–441). The median total payment received by each editor in one year was $4,364 (IQR $319–23,143). 152 (48%) editors received payments more than $5,000 in a year, a threshold considered significant by the National Institutes of Health. COI policies for editors were available for 34/60 (57%) journals but only 7/34 (21%) publicly reported the disclosures and only 2 (3.%) reported the dollar amount received. Interpretation A significant number of editors of internal medicine and subspecialty medical journals have financial COI and very few are publicly disclosed. Specialty journal editors have more COI compared to general medicine journal editors. Current policies for disclosing COI for editors are inconsistent and do not comply with the recommended standards.
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© 2018 Haque et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.