New Study Recommends Blanket Ban on Medical Ghostwriting

PLoS Medicine, a peer-reviewed online journal from the Public Library of Science (PLoS), has published a study that proposes a strict ban on medical ghostwriting.  Any scientist who claims credit as an author on an article secretly written by a pharmaceutical company should be deemed guilty of academic misconduct, it states.

Medical ghostwriting refers to the practice among drug or medical device manufacturers of providing articles written by their own staffs that are then published under the names of academic authors.   Although this practice raises serious concerns about academic integrity, few institutions are seen to have policies to discourage it.   Authors Lacasse and Leo report on a survey of ghostwriting prohibition policies.  Of  50 top academic medical centers in the U.S., only 37 have a clear policy that prohibits ghostwriting.  The policy proposed to deal with this is presented in the article ‘Ghostwriting at Elite Academic Medical Centers in the United States’.

PLoS addressed the problem with an editorial last fall, called ‘Ghostwriting:  The Dirty Little Secret of Medical Publishing That Just Got Bigger.

Policies prohibiting ghostwriting in academic medical centers were recommended in a 2009 report on conflict of interest in medical research, education and practice published by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

NIH is currently drafting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which could introduce revisions and enhancements to the current regulations, according to the representative. The notice will be posted for public comment as NIH develops the final rule, which is anticipated later in 2010.