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22 February, 2012 by ehauke

I’ve had direct experience of this practice and it is really disturbing. The only thing that I would dispute is the financial reward for the ghostwriter. In my experience, they go through a lot of heartache and stress, trying to mediate commercial pharmaceutical marketing concerns, key opinion leaders’ (expert scientists and doctors) egos, and their own sense of moral behaviour and ethical conduct. And given the ridiculous requirements placed on them, they are not financially well rewarded. Especially compared to the other parties involved.

Refractive Index

A recent essay in PLoS Medicine has highlighted the consistent failure of medical journals to control the practice of ghostwriting. In an attempt to stamp it out once and for all, legal experts have advised that doctors and scientists who ‘guest author’ papers written by ghostwriters should be charged with professional misconduct and fraud.

Fundamentally, medicine is based on trust. Whether trust between a doctor and patient or between science and the public, we expect that the information we are given is truthful and unbiased. Consequently, it is shocking to realise the number of medical papers signed off by ‘guest authors’ but actually written by ghostwriters. Described by the PLoS Medicine editors as the ‘systematic manipulation and abuse of scholarly publishing by the pharmaceutical industry’, ghostwriting in medical publishing is the subject of heated debate.

In the ghostwriting of medical papers there are three main players. First, and probably…

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