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Influence Of Drug Companies On Medical Literature

Date:
September 28, 2007
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
How much of the medical literature is shaped behind the scenes by drug companies? 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 new policy paper. An expert in the philosophy of science calls this phenomenon "ghost management."
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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 paper's author, Sergio Sismondo (Queen's University, Kingston, Canada), who is an expert in the philosophy of science, calls this phenomenon "ghost management."

Such articles are "ghostly" says Dr Sismondo, "because signs of their actual production are largely invisible--academic authors whose names appear at the tops of ghost-managed articles give corporate research a veneer of independence and credibility."

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." Dr Sismondo looks at one specific example--the published medical literature on the antidepressant drug sertraline.

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."

Citation: Sismondo S (2007) Ghost management: How much of the medical literature is shaped behind the scenes by the pharmaceutical industry" PLoS Med 4(9): e286.


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Public Library of Science. "Influence Of Drug Companies On Medical Literature." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070926192048.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2007, September 28). Influence Of Drug Companies On Medical Literature. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070926192048.htm
Public Library of Science. "Influence Of Drug Companies On Medical Literature." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070926192048.htm (accessed May 24, 2015).

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