Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal Health Blog talked with JAMA editor-in-chief Cathy D’Angelis about this editorial, which breathed a big sigh of peer-review relief at a judge’s decision to stop Pfizer from getting its hands on some confidential journal documents.

In continuing court cases over adverse cardiac events skipped over in ads for its pain drugs Celebrex and Bextra, Pfizer subpoenaed from JAMA and sister publication Annals of Internal Medicine all documents relating to the drugs – including the internal comments, correspondence, and profiles of peer reviewers, among the most guarded of guarded documents in academia. Earlier this month, a district court judge ruled denied the motion to compel subpoena, effectively shutting the door on Pfizer’s attempt to get into the proverbial back room of medical journal peer review.

This is good news to D’Angelis. One of the reasons the peer-review process works, she said, is that reviewers trust the anonymity and confidentiality of the process, and handing over such revealing into the internal workings of the process would not only give a pharmaceutical giant a super-inside look at how scientific papers are vetted and published at two major medical journals, but would harm participation in the process itself.

“You’re asking people to put their reputation on the line, to spend their time, their expertise and their effort for nothing,” D’Angelis told the Healthblog. “Why should they do it if they fear there’s going to be some retribution?”