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Phoning it in.

My blogpal Bill links me to this New York Times article about professors who allow drug companies to put their names on articles the professors haven’t written.

The practice is immoral and dangerous, but no one seems to care.

… In 1997 … DesignWrite, a medical communications company in Princeton, N.J., proposed to Wyeth a two-year plan that would include the preparation of about 30 articles for publication in medical journals.

The development of an article on the treatment of menopausal hot flashes and night sweats illustrates DesignWrite’s methodology.

Sometime in 2003, a DesignWrite employee wrote a 14-page outline of the article; the author was listed as “TBD” — to be decided. In July 2003, DesignWrite sent the outline to Dr. Gloria Bachmann, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.

Dr. Bachmann responded in an e-mail message to DesignWrite: “Outline is excellent as written.” In September 2003, DesignWrite e-mailed Dr. Bachmann the first draft of the article. She also pronounced that “excellent” and added, “I only had one correction which I highlighted in red.”

The article, a nearly verbatim copy of the DesignWrite draft, appeared in 2005 in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine, with Dr. Bachmann listed as the primary author. It described hormone drugs as the “gold standard” for treating hot flashes and was less enthusiastic about other therapies.

The acknowledgments thanked several medical writers for their “editorial assistance,” not disclosing that those writers worked for DesignWrite, which charged Wyeth $25,000 to generate the article.

Dr. Bachmann, who has 30 years of research and clinical experience in menopause, said she played a major role in the publication by lending her expertise. Her e-mail messages do not reflect contributions she may have made during phone calls and in-person meetings, she said.

“There was a need for a review article and I said ‘Yes, I will review the draft and make sure it is accurate,’ ” Dr. Bachmann said in an interview Tuesday. “This is my work, this is what I believe, this is reflective of my view.”…

This filthy practice incorporates just about everything people rightly revile about some precincts of academia: Plagiarism. Fakery. Arrogance. Laziness. Cynicism (Wyeth was promoting drugs that turned out to be dangerous.).

People make fun of postmodernists by talking about the Postmodern Generator, a program that automatically generates articles full of obscurantist rhetoric. But that’s only generating words. Ghosting whores among our medical faculties are generating real sickness.


Bachmann-Wyeth Overdrive.


Still uncertain why this is filthy? Read Daniel Carlat’s post.

Margaret Soltan, August 4, 2009 10:31PM
Posted in: ghost writing

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11 Responses to “Phoning it in.”

  1. tony grafton Says:

    It’s unbelievable that the professor says this is her work. Yeccchhh.

  2. Erin O'Connor Says:

    "The practice is immoral and dangerous, but no one seems to care. Seems to be the way of the medical school world."

    Margaret, I admire the relentlessness with which you pursue corruption in academic medicine, college sports, governance, etc. Sometimes, though, I wince, and this is one of those times. Please don’t paint with too broad a brush. Yes, there is corruption, and yes it needs to be dealt with. But it is not fair to demonize an entire profession–and particularly to demonize academic medicine. These people are why we can both expect to stay young longer, feel better longer, be cogent longer, live longer, and be able to fight the good fight against whatever nasty disease may come our way. We need them desperately–and we cannot afford to throw out the baby with the bath water. Right now, that’s what Washington is working VERY hard to do. We will not have new procedures, new drugs, new cures if we go down the path of socialized medicine. We’ll lose much of the innovation we have now. We’ll regress horribly. You are helping that dangerous outcome along every time you write underqualified, overbroad posts such as this one. I come from a medical family, as I think I have mentioned here before. I don’t know if you do. I do know that people for whom doctors are abstractions have a very easy time demonizing them (just as people who are not academics have a very easy time demonizing them). Lots of people read your blog. You have influence. Please take the time to make sure it is the right kind.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    I take your point very seriously, Erin.

    First, on the subject of medical families – Mine has doctors and scientists galore, starting with my father. Research and medicine were never abstractions for me, and I have a deep appreciation for medicine, its advances, and even the importance of significant corporate/academic cooperation.

    But I don’t think I paint with too broad a brush on my blog. On this we’ll have to disagree. My reading of the situation, from newspapers, books, blogs, and scientific journals, is that things have gotten to a very bad place indeed. I haven’t even mentioned, on my blog, the latest reports about how depression pill use in the US has doubled in a very short time, and how non-specialist MDs are now routinely giving anti-psychotics along with anti-depressants to the same patients.

    If my rhetoric is overheated lately, that’s because I know that with all the attention right now on health care in this country, this is the moment to try to make a difference. My first motive, in line with the title of my blog, is as always the corruption of the university by money and anti-intellectuality; but I’m seriously motivated too by a sense that this might be a very good time to hit hard against the manipulation of many Americans by an aggressive and sometimes destructive industry.

    OTOH – I know my tendencies to go overboard rhetorically, and I will take your comment to heart in that regard…

  4. Bill Gleason Says:

    "We will not have new procedures, new drugs, new cures if we go down the path of socialized medicine."

    Sorry, but I strongly disagree. The socialized medicine eptithet has been thrown around by the AMA for decades. Presumably what is meant by this phrase is medicine as practiced in Canada, England, and the rest of the civilized world.

    And where do you think the first artificial knee replacement came from? I could go on. It is simply not true that we will have no new procedures, etc. as stated above.

    I applaud UD’s efforts at raising hell about this matter. As Harry Truman said approximately, I don’t give ’em hell, I tell the truth and they think it is hell.

  5. Bill Gleason Says:

    correction – it is "epithet" and I meant hip replacement (Charnley)


  6. Shane Says:

    I’m with Erin philosophically on this one, but UD’s reasoned response to her post is extremely persuasive.

    Erin’s particular point about health care innovation is important as an example of the things that could get thrown out in "health care reform" (which has been renamed "health insurance reform" by our betters in the White House). This is likely to be most true of academic medicine which is US’s focus.

    From the Hoover Institution’s Scott Atlas, "Ten reasons why America’s health care system is in better condition than you might suppose"
    Number 10:
    Americans are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations. The top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other developed country. Since the mid- 1970s, the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology has gone to U.S. residents more often than recipients from all other countries combined. In only five of the past thirty-four years did a scientist living in the United States not win or share in the prize. Most important recent medical innovations were developed in the United States.

  7. Jonathan Mayhew Says:

    Not only that, but the very industry that tends to make the "no new cures" argument is big pharma–precisely the source of corruption.

    Anyway, since modern medicine is such a wonderful thing, why not let more people get access to it? I’d be happy if we caught up with Canada and some European countries in life expectancy.

  8. Shane Says:

    correction/addendum – UD’s focus, not (necessarily?) US’s, and the link to Atlas’s list: http://www.hoover.org/publications/digest/49525427.html

  9. Erin O'Connor Says:

    Thanks for your response, Margaret. Here’s to the good fight!

  10. S SIlverstein Says:

    If you want to see how this "this work is mine" dishonesty in academia works out internally in universities, read these:

    Authorship: The Coin of the Realm, The Source of Complaints
    Linda J. Wilcox, EdM, CAS
    JAMA. 1998;280:216-217

    Also read my letter to the editor about the article.

    Finally, here’s a personal worst case scenario of academic dishonesty regarding IP: Antisocial studies at Yale.

    Pharmas are simply exploiting the moral vacuum too prevalent in modern academia.

    — SS

  11. University Diaries » Phantom Ailments and the Ghosts Who Love Them Says:

    […] are polite people, these ghosts, and, like Gloria Bachmann, another Wyeth ghost, they went out of their way to thank the ghostwriting firm Wyeth paid to write […]

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