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Ghostwriting by Pharmaceutical Companies

Academic journals are places where medical practitioners can go to view the latest, most cutting-edge, medical technologies. These journals are peer reviewed and are supposed to be places where rigorous, unbiased research is conducted. Some of these articles may not be as unbiased as once thought.

NPR’s Marketplace reports (“Drug Companies…“) that drug companies have been distributing academic journal articles to doctors in order to persuade them to use their drug. Prima facie, this may seem to be an innocuous practice–having drug reps show doctors cutting edge techniques helps to increase the physician’s knowledge. However, it has been found that some of these articles alledgedly written by academic researchers are actually ghostwritten by pharmaceutical companies.

Joseph Ross found when he led a study on medical ghostwriting. He says, in the best case, the drug companies provide information to independent experts and then get out of the way. But . . .

JOSEPH ROSS: Who knows how often that actually happens. The worst case scenario is, a company says, “We’ll have a medical publishing company handle everything. They’ll write the papers, we’ll approve it before we even send it to the doctors. Then we’ll let the doctors lightly edited it if they want to, and then we’ll send it out with their names on top.”


  1. I love how the Association of American Medical Colleges points the finger at Rx companies: “The panel recommended that drug companies be banned from ghostwriting for doctors.”

    Shouldn’t they recommend that doctors be banned from passing on ghostwritten articles as their own?

    This is a great example of the absurd hubris in the medical profession: They get caught submitting plagiarized work for publication, and then blame the entity they plagiarized.

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