Of sophists and spin-doctors: industry-sponsored ghostwriting and the crisis of academic medicine

Mens Sana Monogr. 2010 Jan;8(1):129-45. doi: 10.4103/0973-1229.58824.


Ghostwriting for medical journals has become a major, but largely invisible, factor contributing to the problem of credibility in academic medicine. In this paper I argue that the pharmaceutical marketing objectives and use of medical communication firms in the production of ghostwritten articles constitute a new form of sophistry. After identifying three distinct types of medical ghostwriting, I survey the known cases of ghostwriting in the literature and explain the harm done to academic medicine and to patients. Finally, I outline steps to address the problem and restore the integrity of the medical literature.

Keywords: Academic Medicine; Ghostwriting; Key Opinion Leader; Medical Education and Communication Companies; Pharmaceutical Industry; Publications Strategy; Sophists.