Thursday, September 27, 2007

Drug companies shaping medical literature 'behind the scenes'

From Science Daily:
Drug companies control or shape multiple steps in the research, analysis, writing, and publication of a large proportion of the medical literature, and they do so behind the scenes, according to a policy paper recently published in PLoS Medicine.
The essay can be found at:
They talk about ghost writers, who in turn end up 'ghost managing' the studies that the prescribing population depend on for information about medications.
Drug companies hire medical education and communication companies (MECCs) to help produce and place company-funded articles in medical journals, says Dr Sismondo. These articles are "managed," he says, because those MECCs "shape the eventual message conveyed by the article or by a suite of articles."

To demonstrate this, he tracked studies of zoloft (sertaline), an antidepressant manufactured by Pfizer.
His analysis suggests that between 18% and 40% of the literature on this drug published between 1998 and 2000 was ghost managed by a single MECC acting on behalf of the drug's manufacturer. Ghost managed studies, says the author, "affect medical opinion, practice and ultimately, patients," says Dr. Sismondo. "I suspect that most researchers -- even those participating in the system -- don't have a good sense of the extent to which this happens."
Creepy to think that an unknown amount of information that we as clinicians rely on may have been secretly planted there by the drug companies.

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