A disturbing article in the most recent issue of JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) suggests that the practice of ghostwriting medical studies is widespread. How it works is that a big drug company writes a study touting the merits of its latest drug. Then the company hands off the study to a prestigious researcher who agrees to be listed as the author. This adds a veneer of scientific credibility to what is basically corporate propaganda.
The dupes in this entire process are the patients who are convinced to shell out big bucks for medicine that's either worthless or actually harmful (such as Vioxx).
The drug companies, of course, claim this isn't how it works at all. The International Herald Tribune notes
Merck acknowledged Tuesday that it sometimes hired outside medical writers to draft research reports before handing them over to the doctors whose names eventually appear on the publication. But the company disputed the article's conclusion that the authors do little of the actual research or analysis.
I wonder, do the drug companies expect anyone to believe them anymore?