I had to go have a little lie-down after I read the The New York Times story this week about the scandalous practice of medical ghostwriting. Here’s how Danish researcher Dr. Peter Gøtzsche describes medical ghostwriting: “Ghostwriting occurs when someone makes substantial contributions to a manuscript without attribution or disclosure. It is considered bad publication practice in the medical sciences, and some argue it is scientific misconduct. At its extreme, medical ghostwriting involves pharmaceutical companies hiring professional writers to produce papers promoting their products - but hiding those contributions and instead naming academic physicians or scientists as the authors.“
Here’s an extreme example of extreme medical ghostwriting. The New York Times has outlined recent court documents revealing that ghostwriters paid by drug giant Wyeth Pharmaceuticals played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers published in medical journals that backed the use of hormone replacement therapy in women. That supposed medical consensus benefited Wyeth directly, as sales of its HRT drugs Premarin and Prempro soared to nearly $2 billion by 2001.