ghostwriters

  1. Time to end the worst practice in medicine

    Next time you run out of toilet paper, reach for the nearest medical journal.

    In one of the greatest scandals of modern medicine, Big Pharma is using ghostwriters and shady third-party companies to secretly buy its way into the pages of what are supposed to be respectable publications.

    It's so out of control that, for once, I'm actually in favor of the government getting involved, as Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is threatening to do.

    Me agreeing with a politician? Yes, it's really that bad.

    Here's how it works: Big Pharma desperately needs some positive press for a dubious new med. So they hire a ghostwriting firm to conduct a "study," which – lo and behold – shows how perfectly wonderful this drug is.

    The firm then recruits an ethically challenged doctor at a hoity-toity medical school to attach his or her name to it. But besides cashing a paycheck, they've done none of the work.

    Finally, the ghostwriters give the drug company a chance to look over the study before they submit it to a carefully targeted journal – one they know is unlikely to reject it.

    The finished product is little more than an ad dressed up as research.

    It's makes my skin crawl, as I've told you before. But the real outrage is that this shady, deceitful and shameful practice is still going on.

    The list of meds pushed in these made-to-order "studies" reads like a roll call of the worst drug disasters of modern times: Vioxx, Fen-phen, and hormone treatments that turned out to increase the risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease.

    Sen. Grassley wants the National Institutes of Health, which underwrites most medical research, to start enforcing ethical guidelines when it issues a grant, but they've been reluctant to do so.

    Why? Are they lazy? Or worse, are they hiding something?

    For the record, Big Pharma won't even dare ask me to endorse one of their so-called studies. Not only do they know what the answer will be, they also know how quickly I'll blow the whistle and let you in on all their dirty drug secrets. One more reason those companies have dartboards with my picture on it.

    It's time to end this bad practice for good. And those greedy doctors who participated should be banished to a desolate island somewhere with a lifetime supply of the meds they "studied."

    Until then, we should send their research where it belongs – down the toilet.

  2. Ghostwriters for medical researchers?

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    Ghostwriters for medical researchers?

    When a student puts his name on something he didn't write, we call it cheating. What about when a doctor does it? To me, it's still cheating - and people like you are the victims.

    According to a new report that's about to be published in a leading medical journal, Merck - a major Big Pharma company - actually wrote their own research reports for one of their drugs, and then found prestigious doctors to put their names on the published research. That's right: the so-called "objective" doctors allegedly put their good names on research that was conducted BY the drug company that was to be used to help SELL that drug company's product.

    It's a shameful revelation for the entire medical profession. But sadly, this practice has been one of the dirty little secrets of the medical community for years. What's even more embarrassing is that the facts in this report were unearthed as part of the lawsuits over the Vioxx catastrophe from 2004. If you'll recall, Vioxx was a top-selling pain drug until research linked it to heart attacks. The result was a monstrous $4.85 billion settlement for thousands of former patients, and a massive black eye for Merck.

    The report's lead author is Dr. Joseph Ross of New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "It almost calls into question all legitimate research that's been conducted by the pharmaceutical industry with the academic physician," Ross says. He's right.

    As for Merck, the Big Pharma giant has naturally gone into self-defense mode (I'm sure the loss of that $4.85 billion has made them a little skittish). They've acknowledged that they sometimes hire outside medical writers to draft research reports prior to handing them over to the doctors whose names actually appear on the reports. But Merck insists that it's untrue to say that the doctors whose names are on the report do little of the actual research and analysis that's published. Merck claims (or, more precisely, Merck's lawyer claims) that the final report is the product of the doctor named as the author and "accurately reflects his or her opinion."

    Yeah, right.

    More likely, it accurately reflects what he's willing to be paid vast sums of money to say. Of course, Merck is not the only one backpedaling here. The doctors who are the so- called "authors" of these reports are also claiming that the allegations in Ross's article are false.

    An editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says, "It is clear that at least some of the authors played little direct roles in the study or review, yet still allowed themselves to be named as authors."

    But the blame for this mess goes everywhere - even to the indignant and self-righteous folks on JAMA's editorial board. After all, JAMA actually published one of the Vioxx studies that's cited in Ross's article!

    It's a mess to be sure. And, as Ross says, it calls into question nearly everything that's published on the topics of drugs. I find it incredible that it seems doctors can be so willing to put their reputations on the line - reputations that they took years to build - all for a few extra bucks.

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