Drug Companies Ghostwrite Some Submissions to Medical Journals, Editors Say
USA Today on Tuesday examined how some editors of medical journals say they have received submissions for publication that appear to have been ghostwritten by pharmaceutical companies intending to promote a particular product. Under guidelines established by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, any person involved in the analysis, interpretation or writing of clinical trial data "should be recognized appropriately in resulting publications."
However, some medical journal editors say pharmaceutical companies have approached researchers with "one-sided draft[s]" of articles that advocate particular drugs or are "excessively critical" of a competitor, USA Today reports. Adriane Fugh-Berman, an adjunct professor of biophysics at Georgetown University and expert on herbal supplements, said she was presented such an article by an education company on behalf of AstraZeneca, which at the time was seeking FDA approval for its anticoagulant Exanta.
Fugh-Berman declined to align herself with the article. FDA eventually rejected Exanta. An article similar to the draft presented to Fugh-Berman was submitted under a different byline to the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The journal editors asked Fugh-Berman to review the piece, and she subsequently notified the editors of the submission's history. Journal editors Martha Gerrity and William Tierney rejected the piece and wrote in an editorial, "Diligence of medical editors and reviewers will continue to be the first line of defense against the sullying of the medical literature by biased 'reviews' whose motivation is commercial not scientific."
AstraZeneca Director of Global Publications Valerie Siddall said that the company "made no secret of the fact that we actually are very interested and very active in anticoagulants as an area of research." She called the circulation of a draft article to Fugh-Berman "a really awful error" and added that the author whose byline appeared on the article's final draft "had full editorial control about what went in the paper" (Rubin, USA Today, 5/31).