American Society of Hypertension and American Journal of Hypertension get a divorce

Larry Husten

July 29, 2005

New York, NY - The long-simmering dispute between the American Society of Hypertension (ASH) and the American Journal of Hypertension (AJH) has come to a full boil, as the two sides announced that they would end all connections. AJH will no longer be the official journal of ASH, and ASH will no longer provide subscriptions to AJH to its members.

As reported previously by heartwire , the dispute between the two groups has been brewing for some time. One of the key issues at stake is the relationship between the journal and the society. Unlike most other "official" journals of medical societies, the AJH has had no formal connection to ASH. The journal and the society are separate and unrelated nonprofit corporations.

The current action is the result of a decision by the ASH executive council on April 14, 2005 to "terminate its relationship" with AJH "unless a memorandum of understanding clearly providing for editorial oversight by the ASH Committee on Publications & Communications" is agreed on by the two parties, according to a letter sent to AJH editor Dr John Laragh by ASH president Dr Thomas Giles (Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans).

In an editorial in the July 2005 issue of AJH[1], the governing board of the journal announced its decision to sever its relationship with ASH, stating that the society is allowing the erosion of "clear boundaries between ASH and outside sources of funding to prevent conflicts of interest and maintain ASH's integrity."

As evidence of the society's rampant commercialism, journal supporters point to the ASH annual meeting in May 2005 in San Francisco, where even the opening plenary session was sponsored by industry, although Giles notes that the sponsorship was entirely independent of any influence on the content of the session.

In a letter to ASH members, Giles noted that the journal has refused "repeated requests to have a formal written agreement" and has "refused to answer questions that have been raised" about "practices at the journal that have appeared questionable" because of its status as a nonprofit tax-exempt organization.

Previously, the society had questioned the appropriateness of the salary of Laragh, the founder of both the journal and the society and the current editor of the journal, which was $229 234 in fiscal year 2003. The salary, according to Giles in an earlier memo, was "excessive and beyond any standards of comparableness and reasonableness." Laragh's supporters defend his compensation by noting Laragh's long term of office, his unique contributions to the journal, and the fact that he serves as both editor in chief of the journal and CEO of the corporation.

"We regret that we were unable to develop a satisfactory memo of understanding with the journal," said Giles in an interview with heart wire , "but we still feel that a publication that holds itself to be the official voice of the society must have some accountability to the society." Giles said that the society had been making "contingency plans" and would announce its plans for an official publication after a scheduled August meeting of its executive council. "Looking forward, we are excited about the prospects of developing future publications that will give the society the voice that it requires to be effective in its mission of education."

Currently, members of ASH receive a subscription to AJH as part of their membership package. In past years, ASH has paid more than $200 000 for these subscriptions. In his letter to ASH members, Giles said that payments to the journal from the society would now cease. In their editorial, the AJH board say that they will offer ASH members a special subscription rate when their current subscriptions end.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.