Ghostwriting scientific papers

Ghostwriting has become widespread in such areas of medicine as cardiology and psychiatry, where drugs play a major role in treatment. Senior doctors, inevitably very busy, have become willing to "author" papers endorsing new medicines that have been written by ghostwriters paid by drug companies. Large amounts of money may be exchanged. Originally, ghostwriting was confined to medical journal supplements sponsored by the industry, but it can now be found in all the major journals in relevant fields. In some cases, it is alleged, the scientists named as authors will not have seen the raw data they are writing about - just tables compiled by company employees. It has been estimated that 50% of the articles on drugs in the major journals across all areas of medicine are not written in a way that the average person in the street expects them to be authored.
1. Very few research psychiatrists do not have financial ties to drug companies that make antidepressants.

2. Researchers serve as consultants to companies whose products they are studying, join advisory boards and speakers' bureaus, enter into patent and royalty arrangements, agree to be the listed authors of articles ghostwritten by interested companies, promote drugs and devices at company-sponsored symposiums, and allow themselves to be plied with expensive gifts and trips to luxurious settings. Many also have equity interest in the companies.

3. Some of us believe that the present system is approaching a high-class form of professional prostitution.

4. If clinical trials become a commercial venture in which self-interest overrules public interest and desire overrules science, then the social contract which allows research on human subjects in return for medical advances is broken.

5. The success of Prozac, the antidepressant which became a cult "happy" drug in the 1990s, substantially raised the stakes in psychiatry. Its promotion coincided with the decline of state funding for research, leaving scientists in all areas of medicine dependent on pharmaceutical companies to fund or commission their work. That in turn gave the industry unprecedented control over data and ended with research papers increasingly being drafted by company employees or commercial agencies. The responsibility of scientists for the content of their papers takes on serious significance in the context of court cases in the USA where relatives of people who killed themselves and murdered others while on antidepresant drugs.

(G) Very specific problems