30 August 2009

let. to ed. re. recent article in NY Times -- "Senator Moves to Block Medical Ghostwriting"

I read with great interest the recent article describing the issue where medical school professors have articles ghost written for them by writers commissioned by drug companies. The article pointed to the obvious conflict of interest -- and the way that drug companies were using this to unfairly market their products. It also pointed a finger at granting agencies and universities to somehow crack down on this behavior. While I agree that this is certainly a problem, I wonder whether it might make more sense to focus on journalists and publishers. Should it not be the case that an article can only be accepted into a reputable scientific journal if all the authors have been declared (i.e. no ghostwriters) and that the roles of each of these individuals and their conflicts are described somewhere in the text? I think this simple step would do a lot to clean up this problem and many other problems in scientific publishing.

Above is an unpublished letter in response to:
Senator Moves to Block Medical Ghostwriting
Minh Uong/The New York Times
Published: August 18, 2009