Whoops! Plus I own the company that makes the stuff!

Labrie’s take on this is great: “The one that is the first author has got the responsibility.”

It’s great because, you know, quite a few medical journal papers have like five to twenty authors, with only the first author (maybe – maybe a drug company got the whole thing ghostwritten) actually having any involvement in experimenting and writing and shit like that which you might associate with experimenting and writing…

So put quotations marks, in that last sentence, around each use of the word author and you begin to see Labrie’s point.

Some of those not-first writers, let’s speculate, had little to do with the article; their names were plastered on it like some cheesy face cream because people know who they are, and that adds prestige. Why in hell – since their only involvement is to be informed of when the article comes out and instruct their secretaries to add its title to their list of publications – should they bother listing conflicts of interest?

While experts contacted by Reuters Health say that none of the anti-aging creams available to consumers has been proven to work better than a simple moisturizer, some products still run well over $100.

One way to justify those exorbitant price tags is to tout “clinically proven” …

(Why isn’t Suze Orman talking to women about one hundred dollar moisturizers?)

Journals, concludes one editor, are “the marketing arm of the pharma industry.”

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3 Responses to ““In his [British Journal of Dermatology] report on [a] potential anti-aging treatment, [Fernand] Labrie only listed one affiliation: Laval University in Quebec, Canada.””

  1. Mike Stanton Says:

    I thought it was just sarcasm when I read this:
    “most scientific papers have like five to twenty authors, with only the first author… actually having any involvement in experimenting and writing”

    but no longer certain of that by the time I got to this:
    “Some of those not-first writers, let’s speculate, had little to do with the article…”

    It doesn’t seem appropriate to conflate all scientific publications with the subset of papers which appear in medical journals. This piling on of authors unconnected to the work would cause immediate and serious strife in, for example, a chemistry lab in an academic setting in the US.

    Re Ghostwriting: I was under the impression that this pervades the secondary literature (ie bogus review articles), but that the primary literature was still written by the parties who carried out the studies. Whether a study was appropriately designed, whether the results were honestly presented, whether there was disclosure of funding and COI are matters different from whether a study was ghostwritten.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Mike: On your first point – This blog has over many years focused on the medical journals and their pharma- and device-related papers. This of course makes up an enormous scientific literature with far-reaching implications for millions of peoples’ lives. I’ve pointed out in other posts that there are certainly exceptions in academic science to the structural corruption of these areas – I should have pointed it out somewhere in this post as well. (I’ve now changed the post to make this clear.) Even in the more abstract areas of science, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see guest authorship — especially outside the United States.

    Your second point is similar to your first – That only a certain segment of the scientific literature is vulnerable to having been ghostwritten for corporations who are essentially advertising a drug or a device through a journal, and an author, on whose seeming intellectual legitimacy they are relying. Yes, and I’m only focusing on that (rich, vast, powerful) segment.

    Ghostwriting is indeed intimately connected to things like COI, funding disclosure, and experimental design, being a key part of a nexus of dishonest activities systematically undermining our – and our doctors’ – ability to choose proper medication.

  3. Bernard Carroll Says:

    Mike: it isn’t just the secondary medical literature that is ghostwritten – bogus review articles, as you put it. In the primary reporting of Pharma-sponsored clinical trials, I would say ghostwriting is the rule. It is routinely done to maximize spin and market impact – talking up the positives, glossing over the negatives, switching endpoints, and all the other deceits of the trade. There are famous examples out there – Paxil study 329 is one.

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