Profits and Ghostwriting
This is my site Written by Alex on December 18, 2008 – 9:24 am   

A drug company has ghostwritten articles for medical journals about clinical trials results. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) discovered a pattern in which Wyeth pharmaceuticals and DesignWrite, a “medical writing firm,” wrote articles about trials results on Wyeth’s drugs, sent the articles to doctors and researchers for their review, and finally approved or denied any edits the medical professionals made before the articles were published as though they were written by the medical professionals.

The practice highlights how financial considerations about clinical trials sometimes overshadow the medical and research considerations. No one is saying the results of any trials were manipulated. But to Wyeth – and all sponsors of trials – a clinical trial is only as good as the data it produces. It therefore becomes important to present that data to doctors in the most positive light (so they will be more inclined to prescribe the drug, device, or procedure that was tested). Having professional writers who are answerable to the company sponsoring the trial instead of having researchers who conducted the trial write the articles makes it more likely the article will portray the results in a way favorable to the sponsor of the trial.

Are such practices dangerous? Do profits drive medical research too much? If companies didn’t profit so much, would they even bother to discover new cures and treatments for life-threatening conditions? These are complex and interesting topics. Let me know what you think.

To read the article about ghostwriting that appeared in The New York Times, click here.

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