Scientists Credited With Ghostwritten Articles Should Be Charged With Fraud

Legal experts call for severe sanctions against scientists who ‘guest author’ papers written by drugs companies.

By Ian Sample, Science Correspondent

Doctors and scientists who put their names to medical articles they have not written should be charged with professional misconduct and fraud, according to legal experts.

The proposals aim to stamp out the shady business of “guest authorship”, where research papers written by pharmaceutical companies or industry-sponsored medical writers are passed off as the work of influential, independent academics.

In the worst cases, doctors  receive payments or other incentives to endorse articles without being familiar with the studies or data the reports describe. Often, the articles are biased and do not carry the names of the real authors.

The medical profession has long been troubled by guest authorship and ghostwriting, but the issue has become harder to ignore in recent years as the extent to which drugs companies use the tactic as a marketing tool has become clear.

Articles drafted by industry with minimal involvement from guest authors have been published in leading journals on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), Vioxx (an anti-inflammatory drug that was withdrawn amid safety fears), Neurontin (used in pain relief), antidepressants, and the combination diet drug, Fen-phen (also withdrawn for safety reasons).

While the practice is not currently considered to be illegal, it is widely regarded as unethical and potentially harmful to patients because it skews the information that appears in medical journals.

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  1. Even though the pharmaceutical industry risks paying enormous fines for being found guilty regarding ghostwriting, it appears to be worth it for them.

    If ghostwriters were personally held accountable there may be a significant decrease in the practice.

    There also appears to be no regard concerning squandering of taxpayers’ money. In connection with the notorious Paxil study six ghostwriters who were paid by GlaxoSmithKline for promoting Paxil were awarded $66.8 million in National Institute of Health grants between 2006 through 2010.

    Until the fraud was brought to light, Paxil was the best-selling antidepressant in the world, sales in 2002, reached $3.3 billion.

    The study claimed that Paxil was “generally well tolerated and effective for major depression in adolescents.” Whereas the evidence showed that the drug did not benefit children–AND it increased the risk of SUICIDE.

    Yet those published fraudulent claims were penned by prominent academic psychiatrists who have not, so far, been held accountable.

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