by Greg Mayer
In a follow up to her article on ghostwriting of medical papers by pharamaceutical companies (which I noted previously), Natasha Singer reports in today’s New York Times that a key senator is looking to halt the practice.
Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has led a long-running investigation of conflicts of interest in medicine, is starting to put pressure on the National Institutes of Health to crack down on the practice.
That is significant because the N.I.H., a federal agency in Bethesda, Md., underwrites much of the country’s medical research. Many of the nation’s top doctors depend on federal grants to support their work, and attaching fresh conditions to those grants could be a powerful lever for enforcing new ethical guidelines on the universities.
The shocking practice is to hire writers to craft papers favorable to the pharmaceutical company, and then have an academic physician’s name appear as the author of the paper when submitted to a medical journal. Although this seems bizarre to a biologist, a professor at the medical school at the flagship campus of my own university is quoted by Singer as saying, “This happens all the time.” (The quoted professor did not engage in the practice.)