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Ghost(writing) Busters

Ghost(writing) Busters (08-06-09)

There’s been a flurry of newspaper and internet articles of late about Wyeth’s ghostwriting troubles. We broke the news here on July 27 with Judge Wilson’s order unsealing ghostwritten documents.

One terrifically written article is by the New York Times, which describes the specifics of the ghostwriting practice. See the article and an excellent chart showing the ghostwriting process.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers, led by Cleveland Ohio attorney Jim Szaller (the true Ghost(writing) Buster), really worked hard to bring these documents and practices to light. Essentially, ghostwriting is a company’s practice of writing a medical article (either on their own or with the help of an outside company), asking a medical doctor to “author” it after-the-fact, and then publishing it in otherwise reputable journals without disclosing the writing process or the financial interest of the actual writer or “author.” This is simply marketing masquerading as science. It works to the detriment of patients who have been prescribed these drugs because their physicians believe they have been well-vetted in the medical journals. In fact, those journal articles are simply clever advertisements.

In one article highlighted by the court, the physician received a manuscript from a company paid by Wyeth to write the document, and made “one correction.” That’s not authorship by any stretch of the imagination.