Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | August 24, 2009

Kentucky environmental attorney believes the practice of using ghostwritten medical journal articles offends traditional notions of academic honesty and amounts to academic fraud, if a named author does not actively participate in a research project, but instead sells their name to give credibility to the research.

Recently, we posted a story about Wyeth Pharmaceuticals “ghostwriting” medical journal articles. These journal articles supported the drug manufacturer’s side by touting the benefits of its drug products in “peer reviewed medical journals.”

Apparently, this practice is widely used and aggressively defended by many in the drug manufacturing community and by larger defense firms, as simply common practice.  I, for one, don’t want to be taking medications supported by biased medical journal articles or research designed and paid for by a drug company to arrive at a pre-conceived result.  Moreover, I don’t want this type of “manufactured” academic research admitted into evidence under Daubert.

Ghostwritten journal articles “borrow” the names of famed doctors and researchers to gain credibility among their peers in the medical and research community.  In return, drug manufacturers pay out huge bucks to use the names of the right doctor and researchers as authors of a ghostwritten article.  Such medical research and journals entries are biased because of the huge financial backing of big drug companies.  The practice also skews the peer review process that is essential to safe drugs in the medical community and admitting credible scientific evidence into court cases in federal and many state courts.

Ghost writing journal articles is like adding the name of Michael Jordan or Julius Erving, as an author, to a magazine story on how to learn the basics of basketball.  Or, a book entitled “The Inner Secrets of Golf” by Tiger Woods.  The “star” name as an author gives a great deal of credibility to the magazine story or book even if no professional superstar actually had anything to do with the story. 

Just adding their  name as an author gives the work credibility.  People believe the content of the story must be fair, accurate and correct because the author has earned their respect by in other ways. In short, the practice of ghost writing journal articles stinks.  

Manufacturers should not be allowed to push unsafe drugs into the marketplace via ghostwritten medical journal articles.  Such journal articles are not true academic works if the named author did not do the work or oversee, orotherwise actively participate in the project.  Moreover, the practice amounts to academic fraud if the named authors did not actually work on the project, but instead lent their names to research in exchange for big bucks. 

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas Judge Bill Wilson, Jr. granted public access to — and ordered unsealed — reams of discovery material showing that Wyeth Pharmeceuticals “ghostwrote” medical journal articles promoting its drugs. All of this unsealed material is available online for public inspection.

Since receiving copies of the nearly 1,500 documents demonstrating that Wyeth ghostwrote articles to promote Prempro, PLoS Medicine has been working overtime to make this mammoth amount of material publicly available. Today, PLoS Medicine unveiled a new website that allows any member of the public to access these materials for free to see the evidence of ghostwriting that Wyeth had been attempting to hide.  To see the ghostwriting materials, click here. <http://www.plosmedicine.org/static/ghostwriting.action>

It all sounds like the movie, Fugitive, but it is not.  To read the District Court’s order, click here. <http://publicjustice.net/Repository/Files/Prempro_OrderUnsealing_072409.pdf>

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