Ghostwriting, in the scientific medical literature, is the production of marketing literature which is then disguised as scientific literature. Part of this disguise is the appending of “authors” who are actual scientists who would normally write their own papers.

Newly unveiled court documents show that ghostwriters paid by a pharmaceutical company played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers backing the use of hormone replacement therapy in women, suggesting that the level of hidden industry influence on medical literature is broader than previously known.

NYT – caution, page contains obnoxious advertising

PLoS Medicine, an Open Access scientific journal, sued for the release of documents related to ghostwriting and on July 24th of htis year, US. District Judge william Wilson, Jr. granted a motion for discovery [PDF: Case 4:03-cv-01507-WRW Document 2120].

Now, PLoS Medicine has created a web page that allows access to this archive of Ghostwriting related information.

It is apropos that this happens at this time. Ghostwriting is the more genteel and less shouty, but in many ways more insidious, side of a kind f large scale “astroturfing” by the medical industry. We see bough-off “Libertarians,” LaRouchites, Republicans, and other conservatives being bussed around to scream at Democratic congressmen at Town Hall meetings in the US, and with Ghostwriting we see products promoted through what is supposed to be an independent and trustworthy channel: the scientific peer reviewed literature. Both are dishonest practices designed to line the pockets of investors, CEO’s and everyone in between in the medical industry. In the first instance, this is done by ensuring that real competition (facilitated by a public option for health care) does not happen, and in the latter, by competing in the marketplace of lies.

Enjoy. Or, be disgusted. As it were. Everything can be accessed here.

Thank you PLoS for doing this cool thing.

Comments

  1. #1 Bob
    August 27, 2009

    Where is the peer review process in all of this? The data in a results section of a scientific article is just a set of numbers. It’s the job of the reviewers to decide whether or not the data support the claims and statements made in the discussion and conclusions sections of the article. To my knowledge none of the recent newspaper articles on ghost writing have claimed that the data in these papers is fraudulent. If the data is true then it is the job of the peer reviewers to guard against biased and unsupported conclusions. Even if the article makes it into publication with questionable conclusions it is also the job of the medical professional to read it critically and decide for themselves if the data support the conclusions. If they don’t feel qualified to make that determination then maybe they should find a different field in which to practice…I wouldn’t want them treating me.

    I would rather have reliable data from a ghostwriter than falsified data from the lead author (google Dr. Kuklo).