Grassley Investigating Medical Journal Ghostwriting

Letters have been sent to eight major medical journals regarding those journals’ policies and practices concerning medical ghostwriting, according to The Heart. As anyone who reads this blog knows, a variety of <"">drug makers have been the subject of ghostwriting accusations in the past, and industry critics claim it is a common practice. Now, lawmakers are looking at the journals, which publish these papers.

Senator Chuck Grassley (Republican-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance, sent letters to the American Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Annual Review of Medicine, the Archives of Internal Medicine, Nature Medicine, PLoS Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the New England Journal of Medicine, reported The Heart. The editors of these journals were asked, in Grassley’s letter, about ghostwriting practices. The work is part of other work being done on the controversy rife in relationships between industry and those working in the medical profession, said The Heart.

Grassley explained that the Committee has long been looking at medical ghostwriting, which involves the drafting of review articles, editorials, and research papers by marketing or medical-education companies, which then use their connections with “prominent or academically affiliated physicians” to have those names added to the papers “late in the process,” said The Heart. In the letter, Grassley writes that the signing doctors become involved, lending their names, even though they offer minimal work and may not know what such articles contain, such as “underlying data and relevant documentation,” said The Heart.

We have long been reporting on the mounting evidence that points to drug companies routinely hiding their influence over research on their products by paying respected academics for their names to be included as authors of such studies and research. For instance, last month we wrote that Zyprexa maker Eli Lilly apparently asked doctors to put their names on articles written by company officials in an effort to promote the drug. According to previously, the company’s alleged strategy to use ghostwritten articles to increase Zyprexa sales was revealed when more than 10,000 pages of internal documents were unsealed in May in lawsuits alleging Eli Lilly exaggerated Zyprexa’s effectiveness.

Last April, the Journal of the American Medical Association published analysis of court documents uncovered in the course of Vioxx injury lawsuits that found that Merck & Co. employees worked alone or with publishing companies to write Vioxx study manuscripts and later recruited academic medical experts to put their names as first authors on the studies.

Late last year, Wyeth faced allegations that favorable articles about its hormone replacement medications that appeared in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Primary Care Update for OB/GYNs were ghostwritten.

According to Grassley’s letter, “some medical literature may be little more than subtle advertisements rather than independent research,” with such documentation affecting physician’s prescribing practices, which—in turn—affects Medicare and Medicaid programs, reported The Heart. One expert interviewed by last month, said that the use of ghostwritten articles by drug makers has created “a huge body of medical literature that society can’t trust.”

The journals have until July 22, 2009 to respond to Grassley’s letter.

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