Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Another Ghost Writing Update

Another update on ghost writing...

First, I have put below something by Ted Harding about how to find the report from the UK House of Commons committee that looked into ghost writing.

To find the materials from the Health Select Committee, locate the relevant items here.
These are under "Reports":* 5 April 2005 Fourth Report- The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry
There are two parts to the Report:
HC 42-I The main Report
HC 42-II Appendices including transcripts of Oral evidence
This Report covers a lot more than the issue of "ghostwriting",which can be located in the section "Use of journals" on pages53(para 195)-55(para 201) of the main report HC 42-I, with references to evidence. It is clear that the Comittee deplores it, but apparently does not recommend specific regulatory action.
In the Introduction to Part II (HC 42-II), section "Promotion of Medicines to Professionals" (paras 4.14-4.22) there is reference to controls on what pharmaceutical companies may do in this area. Mostly this refers to sponsorship of meetings and people, andthe like, and does not explicitly refer to anything related to "ghostwriting". These controls come under Medicines (Advertising) Regulations1994 (regulation 21--inducements and hospitality), breach of which is a criminal offence. There is also reference to The MHRA Guidelines on Promotion and Advertising, which I have not consulted to see what they say about "ghostwriting."
Further evidence, some not printed in the Report, can be found here. Of these items, the "Supplementary memorandum by AstraZeneca(PI 33A)" (a follow-on to the PI 33 in the Report Pt II) has a section "Role of Professional Medical Writers" which sets out their asserted atttitude to "ghostwriting".
Under "Uncorrected Oral Evidence" see:
* 25 November 2004 The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry
* 2 December 2004 The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry
* 16 December 2004 The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry
* 13 January 2005 The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry
* 20 January 2005 The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry
* 7 February 2005 The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry
As can be seen from HC 42-I and HC 42-II, oral Evidence was infact taken from Thu 9 Sept 2004 onwards, but only the "raw" evidence from the 2004-5 session (7 Feb 2005 on) is available; there seems to be none on the 2003-4 website.

Second, I found a 1997 report of an attempt to get a ghost written review article published, quite similar to that described by Dr. Fugh-Berman in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The 1997 incident was documented in the journal Anesthesiology (Cullen DJ. Ghostwriting in scientific anesthesia journals. Anesthesiology 1997; 87: 195-196.) It can be found on the web by starting here.
In fact, the 1997 article includes earlier references (which I am trying to track down) which include yet another incident similar to the 1997 and current cases, but this time from 1993.

So, in summary, it seems that ghost writing is not a new problem, just one that has lurked below the radar for quite a while. This makes it all the more important to address it. Until we do, it will have a corrosive effect on our trust in the medical scientific literature.

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