More on the ghostwriting issue

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This one looks like it'll have some legs to it--it seems like I'm far from alone in being seriously disturbed by the latest revelations about drug companies asking docs to rubber-stamp pharma-written papers by letting themselves be listed as lead author without having researched or written the articles.

Now The Hoya, Georgetown University's paper, is asking whether this might also constitute plagiarism:

    While the Medical Center doesn t have any specific policies addressing this particular type of ghostwriting, any type of ghostwriting would be an act of plagiarism, which, of course, is in violation of principles laid out in the faculty handbook, [Ken Dretchen, chair of the pharmacology department] said.

And today's New York Times (free registration req'd) has an article that shows how this was also a part of the Vioxx mess (thanks to Health Care Renewal for the pointer):

    The Advantage trial was completed in 2000, but its results were not published until 2003, when they appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a well-regarded journal. Dr. Jeffrey R. Lisse, a rheumatologist at the University of Arizona who is listed as the study's first author, said in an interview that at least two other journals had rejected the study because its results were not novel.

    In the published study, Dr. Lisse reported that five patients taking Vioxx had suffered heart attacks during the trial, compared with one taking naproxen, a difference that did not reach statistical significance. But the paper never mentioned the three additional cardiac deaths of patients taking Vioxx, including the 73-year-old woman.

    Dr. Lisse said that while he was listed as the paper's first author, Merck actually wrote the report, an unusual practice.

    "Merck designed the trial, paid for the trial, ran the trial," Dr. Lisse said. "Merck came to me after the study was completed and said, 'We want your help to work on the paper.' The initial paper was written at Merck, and then it was sent to me for editing."

    Dr. Lisse said he had never heard of the case of the woman who died, until told of it by a reporter. "Basically, I went with the cardiovascular data that was presented to me," he said.

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