Derek Lowe (In The Pipeline) on ghostwriting and a real drug industry project meeting

I know that we have been very fortunate to attract a few new readers over the last year or so. For those, and as a reminder to others, I wanted to focus on some of my major blog influences. One of these is Derek Lowe, an early science blogger who is perhaps the only pharmaceutical company chemist who writes under his own name. Dr Lowe writes the blog, In The Pipeline.

Dr Lowe gives invaluable insights into the industry about companies large, small, and tiny, and provides on of the few places where scientists entering the job market can truly get a glimpse of what it's like to work for a drug company. (Here is his archive category on academia vs. industry.).

At the end of last week, he put forth back-to-back posts that reveal insights on the industry, including a fair criticism of one high-profile industry practice, ghostwriting.

First things first is Derek's piece on ghostwriting: drug company scientific manuscripts, most often on clinical trials, that are drafted by a writing firm with academics then solicited to list themselves as authors and submit the papers to journals. I've always admired Derek's integrity and here is no exception; while a specific, high-profile case stimulated this post, he speaks more broadly of the practice, beginning:

As much as I defend the industry I work in, I have to talk about things that we do that I don't think are so defensible.

The post is not long but very much to the point so I won't reprint his spot-on final paragraph. Let it suffice to say that Derek's sentiment is one that I have observed almost universally from drug company scientists. More broadly, these colleagues are among the wisest and most ethical practitioners of the craft among all I have met in my years in this business. For as much grief as the pharmaceutical industry endures, one may note that the scientists themselves are almost never at the heart of the controversies or missteps that appear in the media. My hat is off to all of my compatriots in the industry who quietly practice their craft without fanfare.

Second is his screenplay of a hypothetical drug company project meeting; this is the pharmaceutical counterpart to DrugMonkey's excellent series on NIH study sections. Not only is his text superb (and accurate according to several colleagues in the industry) but his commenters make some excellent modifications. The reader should note - and it is wise for me to take this reminder - that an in vitro potency (KD or Ki, I presume) of 50-100 nM is roughly the threshold for putting a compound into an animal model.

So if you aren't reading Derek Lowe's In the Pipeline, you should.

You can also follow Dr Lowe on Twitter: @DerekLowe

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HAHA, I loved this one:

I sit on the biology side of the table.

My favorite:
Chemist A: This compound has limited metabolic stability and a poor PK profile, but given the potency, I suggest we run it in vivo. Biology should be fine running the efficacy study with QID dosing, right?

Biologist A (me): What are you, nuts? Perhaps you can lend me a chemist to come in and handle the midnight & 6AM dosing.

Chemist A: Why is biology always so obstructionist?!?!

it's even funnier when you are the *behavioral* biologist and you require a few weeks (or more) of work just to prep the groups for evaluation.....

By DrugMonkey (not verified) on 10 Aug 2009 #permalink