Here is some additional background on the Journal of General Internal Mediciine / RcComms
/AstraZeneca ghost writing story.
The World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) List Server Discussion
The story first appeared in cyberspace as an edited transcript of a WAME list server discussion
that took place in January, 2005. For those interested, it makes for worthwhile reading. And it turns out that none of the points I made on Health Care Renewal this week were very original.
The Pharma Watch Report
The WAME discussion was picked up on the Pharma Watch blog out of Australia, (in a post entitled "Bleeding Misleading") and here things got interesting. A single comment was posted to this blog. The comment pointed out that the story seemed to contradict testimony of Dr. John Patterson, the Executive Vice President for Product Strategy, Licensing, and Business Development for AstraZeneca [UK] given to the UK House of Commons denying that the company had ever had articles ghostwritten, and also included a somewhat rude remark about that Dr. Patterson.
Pharma Watch's blogger, Michael Lascelles, then received a message from an AstraZeneca official asking him to remove these "potentially defamatory" remarks made in the comment. Lescelles removed the potentially offensive parts of the comment, but later noted (in a post entitled "I'm Going to be Sued Over This, But What the Heck,") that the story as told in the JGIM article suggested that "Dr John Patterson's comments to the House of Commons committee [were] inaccurate, to say the least."
The Portland Tribune Article
Finally, there was a news article in the Portland Tribune about the case, including an interview
with Dr. Martha Gerrity, one of the two co-editors of JGIM. In it she stated "the intent was to
bias the medical literature in favor of a pharmaceutical company's product.... This isn't
telling the truthful story about warfarin."
The Tribune article also included details about Rx Communications' and AstraZeneca's responses to the allegations made about them. The Tribune article stated that Rx Communications said that "there were actually two papers on warfarin in development, and the paper submitted to JGIM was indeed the work of the named author. According to their explanation, portions of the article Fugh-Berman was later asked to review were mistakenly sent to her when she was solicited to write a different article." Furthermore, AstraZeneca's public relations director, Julia Walker, said "the named author provided significant contributions over many months to the content and focus of the article." But Dr. Fugh-Berman called these explanations "ridiculous," given that "the article she was asked to write came to her not as an outline but as a completed 2,850-word manuscript, including 65 references and a title page with her name already on it."
The best way to conclude would be to again quote the JGIM editorial by Dr. Gerrity and Dr. William Tierney, " ghostwriting as apparently occured in this case "injects bias and untruth into the scientific dialogue in order to enhance corporate profits."
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