"Many of the articles that appear in scientific journals under the byline of prominent academics are actually written by ghostwriters in the pay of drug companies." Used by doctors "to guide their care of patients," these "seemingly objective articles ... are often part of a marketing campaign." The New England Journal of Medicine recently revealed that a 2000 article on Vioxx "omitted information about heart attacks among patients taking the drug. ... The deletions were made by someone working from a Merck computer." A 1999 "publications strategy" prepared for Pfizer by a WPP Group agency listed 81 proposed articles, promoting Zoloft for everything from "panic disorder to pedophilia." One physiologist hired by Elsevier's Excerpta Medica says she was asked to "slant" a 2002 paper in favor of a Johnson & Johnson drug. Many journals ask for disclosure, but say their ability to weed out ghostwriters is limited. "I don't give lie-detector tests," said the Journal of the American Medical Association's chief editor.
By Diane Farsetta on December 13, 2005