Unknown agencies behind medical journals

Medical journals are the bibles of the healing profession. They command peer respect, and possess immense reach among doctors. But, as the uk-based The Observer reveals, they could quite literally be doctored. Hundreds of articles in such journals, apparently written by academics or doctors, are actually penned by ghostwriters in the pay of drug companies...

 
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Unknown Agencies for Medical Journals

Medical journals are the bibles of the healing profession. They command peer respect, and possess immense reach among doctors. But, as the uk-based The Observer reveals, they could quite literally be doctored. Hundreds of articles in such journals, apparently written by academics or doctors, are actually penned by ghostwriters in the pay of drug companies.

The immediate reaction is: what the hell for? The answer is quite apparent, much like Hamlet's father on the battlements: it's all about profit, or pill-ferage.

But we could be concerned, like the mourning prince. Almost half of all articles published in journals are by ghostwriters. There exist agencies that hire writers to do the job. Doctors who put their names to the papers are paid handsomely. Most such papers endorse certain drugs; they appear before doctors as independent research, persuading the latter to prescribe the drugs.

Much of this skull-druggery came to light when one such writer, Susanna Rees, gave up the ghost. She wrote on the British Medical Journal website: "One standard procedure I have used states that before a paper is submitted to a journal electronically or on disc, the editorial assistant must remove the names of the medical writing agency or agency ghostwriter or pharmaceutical company and replace these with the name and institution of the person who has been invited to be named as lead author, but who may have had no actual input into the paper".

One field where ghostwriting is an increasing problem is psychiatry. Oops. To be or not to be? Is that a question?

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