Sunday, December 14, 2008

Big Pharma Under Fire for Reverse Plagiarism

The pharmaceutical industry is coming under fire for allegedly hiring ghostwriters (writers who work for pay, but not a byline) to write positive reports/analysis of clinical tests on drugs with possible efficacy issues - and then recruiting notable doctors to stick their names on it. This issue has been bandied about for months and suspected for longer, but now U.S. Senator Charles Grassley from Iowa is renewing the fight.

Is the fact that this possibility has surfaced doesn’t surprise me troubling? Even before I declared my concentration in health/medicine reporting, I was aware of the corruption and rampant abuse of power by what is referred to as Big Pharma. Government deregulation and regulation on a slew of business and healthcare policy issues end up benefiting these corporate entites, whether allowing unapproved drugs and drugs with possible side effects to go on the market before they are fully vetted by the FDA or removing/weakening price caps on prescription drugs so that Pharma can charge more for less and profit from donations of life-saving drugs to Third World countries. And of course there are the deceptive drug ads that have had varying levels of regulation over the last two decades.

Journal articles are an important “first draft” introducing new developments in medicine to the public and are among the sources used by health professionals and medical reporters in their story research. Doctors and reporters already look at journal articles with a wary eye, and the likely possibility of journal articles being fabricated can be even more detrimental to the trust people place in such written work.

And that doctors would sign on to put their names on these works they haven’t written - even if they agree with what is being written - is egregious and says they condone this deceptive practice. Like the regulations placed on drug advertisements, all that would be needed is for the doctors to acknowledge that this IS NOT their work. It would be better if it were, but if this is the way they want to roll, then disclose your affiliations.

It is tantamount to plagiarism.

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