Dove Press Fails to Insist on Full
Conflict-of-Interest Disclosure by Several Authors
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Dove Medical Press offers "open access" that requires payment of a processing fee as a condition of publication. It's Web site lists 93 journals, 72 of which are currently indexed by PubMed. In February 2018, I asked Dove quality-control officials to investigate a series of 20 articles by Marty Hinz, M.D. and colleagues that I believe did not fully disclose their financial conflicts of interest. The conflict-of-interest guidelines of International Committee of Journal of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) state that authors should:
- Disclose financial relationships with entities in the bio-medical arena that could be perceived to influence, or that give the appearance of potentially influencing, what they wrote in the submitted work, including interactions with ANY entity that could be considered broadly relevant to the work
- Disclose all sources of revenue paid (or promised to be paid) directly to them or their institution on their behalf over the 36 months prior to submission of the work. This should include all monies from sources with relevance to the submitted work, not just monies from the entity that sponsored the research. Interactions with the work's sponsor that are outside the submitted work should also be listed here. If there is any question, it is usually better to disclose a relationship than not to do so. . . .
- Report other relationships or activities that readers could perceive to have influenced, or that give the appearance of potentially influencing, what they wrote in the submitted work .
The journals that published the 20 articles are on ICMJE's list of subscribers to its guidelines . The guidelines also state that corrections should be published as soon as possible and incorporated in a new version of the relevant article .
For many years, Hinz has claimed that amino acid supplements can improve Parkinson's disease and various other conditions by balancing neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. Since the mid-1990s, he has developed a network of companies that market his ideas and clinics that use his protocols to treat patients . Between 2009 and 2016, Dove Press published 20 articles that his network uses for promotional purposes. In my opinion, full disclosure of the relevant conflicts of interest should disclose the following:
- Hinz owns NeuroResearch Clinics, which markets continuing medical education (CME) courses. These teach practitioners who to administer "Hinz protocols" that use dietary supplements intended to balance the relevant neurotransmitters.
- The supplements used for the protocols are supplied by the West Duluth Distribution Company, which does business as doing business as CHK Nutrition. Amy Gunther-Hinz (Hinz's daughter) runs the company, Until 2011, Hinz had a direct financial interest in the the company. Thias M. Hinz (Hinz's wife) is or was a shareholder.
- Hinz also owns DBS Labs, which does testing needed to implement Hinz's protocols.
- Thomas Uncini, Ph.D., who co-authored 14 of the articles, is the medical director of DBS Labs and has been a member of the CME course faculty.
- Alvin Stein, M.D., who co-authored 16 of the articles, operated a clinic that utilized the Hinz protocol and derived income from patient fees and the sale of supplements marketed by CHK Nutrition. He was also a member of the CME course faculty.
- Ted Cole, M.D., who co-authored seven of the articles, operates a clinic that utilizes the Hinz protocol and derives income from patient fees and the sale of supplements marketed by CHK Nutrition. He and has also been a member of the CME course faculty.
- Beth McDougall, M.D., who co-authored one of the articles, operates a clinic that utilizes the Hinz protocol and derives income from patient fees and the sale of supplements marketed by CHK Nutrition.
- Mark Westaway, M.D., who co-authored one of the articles, operates a clinic that utilizes the Hinz protocol and derives income from patient fees and the sale of supplements marketed by CHK Nutrition.
- Patricia Ryan, M.D., who co-authored one of the article operates a clinic that utilizes the Hinz protocol and derives income from patient fees and the sale of supplements marketed by CHK Nutrition.
- When originally published, only one of the 20 articles mentioned CHK Nutrition, but it failed to explain that CHK Nutrition sells the supplements used in the Hinz Protocol.
- When originally published, none of the 20 articles mentioned any connection between CHK Nutrition and Hinz's wife or daughter. In 2016, he disclosed that his wife was a shareholder of West Duluth Distribution Company, but he failed to explain that the company is the parent company of CHK Nutrition or what it does.
- Three of the 20 articles contain no disclosures. A 2015 correction to one of them mentioned Hinz's "relationship" with West Duluth Distribution but did not disclose the conflicts of the article's co-authors.
- Only 13 of of the 20 articles mention that Hinz owns or "has a relationship with" DBS Labs, but they do not explain what DBS does or how he benefits financially from the tests needed to administer the Hinz protocol.
- Only 13 of the 20 articles mentioned that Hinz owns or "has a relationship with" NeuroResearch Clinics, but they do not explain what NeuroResearch Clinics does or how he can benefit directly from course fees and indirectly from lab tests and supplement sales generated by the teachings.
- Thirteen of the 16 articles co-authored by Dr. Uncini disclose that he is medical director of DBS labs, but they do not explain how DBS labs can benefit financially from tests needed to administer the Hinz protocol.
- None of the articles co-authored by Drs. Stein, Cole, McDougall, Westaway, or Ryan disclose how they would gain from patient fees and the sale of supplements marketed by CHK Nutrition.
In February 2018, I asked Dove Press's quality-control officials to remedy the lack of adequate disclosure. Dove immediately acknowledged my first message and has told me several times they are giving the matter high priority. However, sixteen months have passed without any publicly visible action. I don't doubt their sincerity, but I believe they are taking too long.
Ivan Oranzky, M.D., of Retraction Watch agrees that Dove is taking far too long to adjudicate the conflict-of-interest portion of my complaint .
- Recommendations for the conduct, reporting, editing and publication of scholarly work in medical journals. ICMJE Web site, accessed Feb 25, 2019.
- ICMJE form for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. ICMJE, April 26, 2013.
- Corrections, retractions, republications and version control. ICMJE Web site, accessed Feb 25, 2019.
- Barrett S. A skeptical look at Marty Hinz and his views of "neurotransmitter-related diseases." Quackwatch, June 30, 2019..
- Barrett S. Recommended conflict-of-interest disclosures for Hinz papers. Quackwatch, March 9, 2019.
- Oransky I. Conflicts of disinterest: Why does it take a publisher 18 months, and counting, to correct papers? Retraction Watch, August 7, 2019.
This article was revised on August 7, 2019.