A journal said today that it was pulling a paper linking transcendental meditation to lowered rates of death from heart attack and stroke after its authors provided additional data “less than 24 hours” before the article had been slated to be published online.
The Archives of Internal Medicine notified reporters of the decision via email at 2:48 pm Chicago time on 27 June – twelve minutes before the article had been scheduled to be published. The decision was too late for some media outlets that had prepared stories based on an embargoed press release about the paper. The Telegraph ran a story about the paper online in which the paper’s senior author, Theodore Kotchen of the Medical College of Wisconsin, said: “These findings are the strongest documented effects yet produced by a mind-body intervention on cardiovascular disease. The effect is as large or larger than major categories of drug treatment for cardiovascular disease.” (Update, June 28: Maureen Mack, director of media relations at the Medical College of Wisconsin has notified us that the Telegraph misattributed this quote. It should have been attributed to the paper’s first author, Robert Schneider of the Maharishi University of Management.)
The Telegraph also quoted one scientist at the US National Institute of Mental Health who described the paper as a “seminal finding.”
“The prevention of heart attack and stroke and actual lengthening of lifespan by an alternative treatment method is exceedingly rare, if not unprecedented. If Transcendental Meditation were a drug conferring so many benefits, it would be a billion-dollar blockbuster,” the NIMH’s Normal Rosenthal told the Telegraph.
Archives spokeswoman Jann Ingmire said she had asked the Telegraph not to run the story in its print edition on 28 June.
Ingmire said she could not recall another situation in which the journal had decided at the last minute to pull a paper that had been scheduled to be published. However she said the journal was placed in a difficult position after the authors of the paper submitted additional data about the paper so close to its publication date. She said it was unclear whether the new data changed the paper’s conclusions.
“It became apparent that there was additional data not included in the manuscript that was about to be published, and the editor of Archives thought that the information was significant enough that it needed to be included as part of the paper, and then re-analyzed and verified, so she made the last-minute decision not to publish it,” Ingmire said. The editor of the journal is Rita F. Redberg of the University of California at San Francisco.
Ingmire said: “It’s an unusual situation, but the bottom line is that our journal wants to make sure that the information we put out is as accurate as can be.”
Larry Husten at Forbes points out that the paper’s “first author, Robert Schneider, is the Dean of the College of Maharishi Consciousness Based Health Care at Maharishi University of Management and Director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, which is funded by the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”
The full text of the email from Archives is pasted below.
“The editorial office of the Archives of Internal Medicine has made the decision not to publish, “Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education in African Americans,” by Schneider et al, and the accompanying Commentary by Mehta and Bairey Merz that was to post Online First at 3 PM central time today.
The decision is to allow time for review and statistical analysis of additional data not included in the original paper that the authors provided less than 24 hours before posting. We apologize for the short notice, but hope you will understand and not run your stories on this study today.”
Update, June 28: The online Telegraph story has been removed.
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