Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ghost writing - a dying practice

The practice of "ghost writing" seems to be dying quickly. Merck is being heavily scrutinized because of everything that happened with Vioxx, and this week, JAMA has published some case studies about this very practice.

What does all this mean for those medical communication companies that develop articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals? Well, for starters, all author information will need to be fully disclosed in every publication. We've started to see this in several journals. Clinicians are listing and acknowledging the names of writers who may be employed by medical communications companies. However, some proponents are arguing that medical communications companies should not even be involved in writing any of the content for these manuscripts. Does this mean that professional medical writers may need to start looking for other opportunities?

The buzzword these days is "transparency." Companies and clinicians must fully disclose all relevant information and be completely transparent. This is happening in the world of CME. Professional education that is CME certified should be fair-balanced, free of bias, and evidence-based. All faculty members who develop or present CME programs are required to fully disclose all affiliations that may potentially influence of bias their message.

Transparency is being taken a step further these days. In a bold move, Lilly began a new CME grant transparency process and started posting data about their CME dollars. People can see how Lilly is spending CME dollars. Take a look at their grant office registry report:

The buzzword "transparency" will continue to permeate industry. The FDA, the OIG, and all other stakeholders will demand full transparency whenever research is published. Perhaps those ghost writing companies will need to refocus and find other opportunities...

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