Friday, September 18, 2009

NYT On Accusations Of Ghostwriting

We don't typically re-publish here accusations that are unhelpful to the pharmaceutical industry.

But we figure once something has appeared on the front page of the business section of The New York Times, our blog has little power to add or detract.

So defense lawyers interested in accusations of ghostwriting of articles published in medical journals should click this link to "Medical Editors Push for Crackdown on Ghostwriting" from today's Times.

(Plaintiffs' lawyers: We're sorry to report that the previous link is broken. No reason to bother with it.)

Here's a link to PhRMA's principles on, among other things, the subject of giving authorship credit for articles. We are told that these principles "make ghostwriting a thing of the past."


Justinian Lane said...

Just curious as to what thoughts you have on the propriety of ghostwriting. And when I say ghostwriting, I mean English majors authoring the substantive scientific portion of a manuscript, and then having an MD review it and sign his/her name to it.

Beck/Herrmann said...

As lawyers, we ghostwrite - and are ghostwritten for - all the time. Chances are that the lawyer signing a brief didn't do the research or even much of the writing that goes into it. Quite frequently a lawyer from one firm will sign and file a document prepared by lawyers at a different firm. Our ethical rules require the lawyer signing any document filed in court to take responsibility for the accuracy of its contents. As long as the filed document accurately states the facts and the law, that the signer didn't actually write every word or review every cited authority isn't an issue.

We feel pretty much the same way about ghostwriting.

Anonymous said...

"As long as the filed document accurately states the facts and the law, that the signer didn't actually write every word or review every cited authority isn't an issue."

You don't say.

Lawyer-signed pleadings to research-based science is apples to moonrocks.

A pleading is advocacy. No matter who signs it, its purpose is to advance the claims asserted by a party to litigation. The "truth" of a pleading is contingent. Pleadings are not published in journals and their content is not typically used to make life and death decisions.

Research-based science articles are not advocacy (or at least they're not supposed to be). Their purpose is to contribute to the collective body of scientific knowledge. Their "truth" is actual. [And replicable, but consumers of prescription drugs have to go on faith. So, generally, does the FDA.] Research-based science articles are published in journals and often form the basis for life and death decisions.

When a brief is signed by a lawyer who had little if anything to do with its preparation but who does not disclose this, the purpose of the brief is unaffected. It's still just advocacy, and its truth is still contingent. Apples.

When research-based science is prepared by salesmen who fail to disclose their role in the process, the purpose of research-based science is perverted. What is supposed to be a contribution to the body of scientific knowledge might be. But it could be a salesman selling snake oil. Moonrocks.