PLos debates professional writers
Three viewpoints on the role of professional medical writers are presented in PLoS Medicine.
1. Ghostwriting is scientific misconduct and should be handled accordingly
2. Ghostwriting is difficult to define, we need more evidence of its frequency and impact
3. Professional medical writers can be legitimate contributors to manuscripts but ghostwriting is dishonest and unacceptable.
Even now many people who are happy to use the services of a professional statistician will not acknowledge if they have used a professional medical writer. This situation is common despite the recommendation to acknowledge professional medical writers in the Good Publication Practice Guidelines, which was published 6 years ago.
It seems that the general mood appears to be moving towards transparency in the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and other professionals. Examples include:
- Senator Charles Grassley’s investigation into unreported payments to US physicians by pharmaceutical companies
- More pharmaceutical companies announcing that they will disclose payments to doctors
- Greater transparency in clinical trial registration and reporting of results
- RCP statement on the relationship between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry (see “hot of the press’ 4th February post).
So, perhaps it is time for universal disclosure when professional medical writers are used.