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Altostrata

POGO Project on Government Oversight FAQ about medical ghostwriting

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Altostrata

Drug companies don't stop at paying researchers to conduct studies and find results favorable to pharma marketing. No, drug companies sometimes write the studies themselves and pay a doctor to use his or her name as the author. They write medical textbooks, too -- see this Carlat blog post about a 1999 psychopharmacology textbook, ostensibly authored by Charles Nemeroff and Alan Schatzberg, that helped push Paxil into the top 10 prescribed medications.

 

What is corporate-funded medical ghostwriting?

 

Corporate-funded medical ghostwriting involves a pharmaceutical or medical device company that hires a medical communications company to draft manuscripts, or portions thereof, of research studies, review articles and editorials, supplements, textbooks, and letters to the editor. These ghostwritten manuscripts are approved internally for business objectives and then passed off for signature by prominent academics, who sometimes only ask for minor changes.

 

What is the harm in ghostwriting medical articles?

 

Ghostwriting creates an obvious conflict of interest beacause the company is paying for the manuscript—it distorts the medical literature, affecting what prescribers and consumers believe about drugs, devices, and biologics. It also drives up healthcare costs because companies use ghostwritten studies to seek approval for pharmaceuticals and devices and payment from healthcare programs. Companies present ghostwritten studies, reviews, and commentaries to doctors and other prescribers to convince them to use specific drugs and medical devices that may be more costly, and sometimes less safe. These studies are sometimes for off-label conditions.

 

In court, company lawyers brandish ghostwritten articles as “evidence” to attack independent research and experts who question a product’s safety and effectiveness. Ghostwritten journal articles betray the moral responsibility to patients and the effort to produce a reliable body of medical knowledge essential to evidence-based medicine.

 

See more at POGO: http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/alerts/public-health/ph-iis-20110620.html

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