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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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December 2, 2010

Ghostwriting On the Larger Scale

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Posted by Derek

You've heard, no doubt, of the problem of ghostwritten articles associated with the drug industry. But now there's a report of an entire ghostwritten book. It is (was, since it came out over ten years ago) a guide for family physicians on psychiatric pharmacotherapy, and its authors - scratch that, I mean the names on the cover - are the current chairman of the psychiatry department at Miami and the former chairman at Stanford.

Now, it's not like these two would have been likely to sit down and write the book themselves under normal conditions, either. Had they been so minded, they would surely have farmed out the work to lesser colleagues. Textbook writing like this is not an exalted activity. But from what this article says, it does look as if a medical writing firm working with SmithKline did the actual grunt work, and that it was the company that had final approval over the page proofs.

I have no idea if the content of the book is accurate or not, but that's really only a secondary point. Signing your name as an author to something written by someone else, for their own interests, is unethical. That's the point.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Why Everyone Loves Us


1. dearieme on December 2, 2010 9:25 AM writes...

They are senior academics. What do you expect?

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2. barry on December 2, 2010 9:35 AM writes...

Gee, Pharma's paid lobbyists write many of the bills that our Senators "draft" and "sponsor". Did you expect that they wouldn't try to sway a million other conversations that can put billions into their accounts?

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3. Hap on December 2, 2010 11:14 AM writes...

Didn't the first author move to Miami because he couldn't either do math or (more likely) tell the truth about how much money he was getting from pharma companies for advocacy? I would never have expected such a thing from him.

Again, ethics are for peons, I guess.

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4. MIMD on December 2, 2010 4:01 PM writes...

How contaminated by ghostwriting is the biomedical literature? Can we really know?

For example, has ghostwriting infected even the the "experts" with tainted "knowledge", creating vectors for further spread and mutation of the scientific knowledge base? (link to one of my customary iconoclastic posts.)

I ask that question quite seriously, as the former director of MRL's science research libraries. R&D is strongly dependent on the literature.

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5. befuddled on December 2, 2010 8:17 PM writes...

It's not always true that textbook writing is farmed out (much less pharmed out) to others. I know for a fact that one popular biochemistry text is written by the authors.

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6. Paul on December 8, 2010 3:09 PM writes...

nature has an editorial up about the whole issue. it calls for Francis Collins to put a stop to this.

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