Publication planning in the NYT

Wyeth has now been added to the list of pharmaceutical companies on which there are excellent documents showing how they hire ghostwriters to produce scientific papers to sell drugs. Cudos to the New York Times and PLoS Medicine. Now here’s me as a broken record: Unfortunately, this is not just a common activity: it is the norm.
"Data generated from clinical trials programs are the most powerful marketing tools available to a pharmaceutical company," writes
Envision Pharma, a “publication planning” agency.
Over 50 such agencies advertise on the Internet, many of them making similar claims; some boast of having hundreds of employees and handling many hundreds of manuscripts per year. The industry is large enough that there are two competing international associations of publication planners that organize meetings and seminars. By my estimate, 40% of the scientific articles on new drugs are ghostwritten, and given to academic doctors to author. As the Wyeth story shows, the ghost management of science continues even when the drugs are not so new.
The goal is to market drugs through science. “How are we going to create publications that have the right message, and a memorable message, for prescribers?” asked one planner at a meeting I attended (see my
Ghosts in the Machine).
A phenomenon this large is not going to disappear without concerted government action. That would take enormous political will, but would restore legitimacy to published medical science.