There appears to be few limits on what some pharmaceutical companies have been willing to attempt to influence the drug-prescribing habits of physicians. One company created a phony medical journal from scratch (see: Merck Creates Phony Peer-Reviewed Medical Journal to Dupe Physicians). We now learn some of the details about how another company commissioned a review article by a medical communications company and then used an academic physician as the lead author. This news appeared in the New York Times with details about how this was accomplished (see: Medical Papers by Ghostwriters Pushed Therapy). Below is an excerpt from the article:
It's not clear from the article how much compensation Dr. Bachmann received for allowing her name to be used in this way and/or in consulting fees from Wyeth. Interestingly enough, she indicates that the use of hormone replacement was "reflective" of her view of practice. I suspect that this is a true but somewhat irrelevant in terms of the issues at hand. It appears that she had little to do with the article for which she was credited as the lead author except to review the initial outline and subsequent drafts. This was certainly one facet of the problem. The second facet was that the employees of DesignWrite, who appear to have written the entire piece, were said to have been provided "editorial assistance." Hopefully, this case, and others like it, will cause medical journal editors to pay more attention to the authorship of all articles but particularly those where pharmaceutical companies may be working in the shadows. At the very least, we need a crisper definition for what constitutes primary authorship of an article. Is it sufficient to only review the work of other unspecified parties?