PureInsight | April 18, 2005
(Washington, DC) -- In a commentary titled "The Corporate Coauthor" published online by the Journal of General Internal Medicine on April 14, Adriane Fugh-Berman M.D., adjunct associate professor of physiology and biophysics at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, recounts her experience of being asked to "author" a ghost-written article funded by a pharmaceutical company. Fugh-Berman declined, and penned a commentary about her experience for JGIM instead. "The pharmaceutical industry relies on ghost-written publications in peer-reviewed journals as part of their marketing plans," said Fugh-Berman. "Physicians rely on information in the medical literature to make treatment decisions, so hidden sponsorship of articles—and lectures at medical conferences—is not only unethical, but can compromise patient care."
In her commentary, Dr. Fugh-Berman reports that she was approached by a medical education company working for a well-known pharmaceutical manufacturer. The company asked her to lend her name as "author" to a completed manuscript that reviewed herb-warfarin interactions. The pharmaceutical manufacturer was developing a competitor to warfarin and had apparently commissioned the article to highlight problems with warfarin.
Fugh-Berman says that the true sponsorship of articles is often fuzzy because pharmaceutical companies hire medical education companies to act as intermediaries with researchers. She says that the current voluntary standards for declaring conflicts of interest to readers of medical journals and audiences at medical conferences are inadequate, and that a public database detailing physicians' and researchers' conflicts of interest is needed.
The full commentary, as it appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, is available here. http://gumc.georgetown.edu/communications/releases/fugh_berman_04112005.pdf
Dr. Fugh-Berman, a general practitioner who is the author of a reference text, The 5-Minute Herb and Dietary Supplement Consult (Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins 2003), teaches in the Georgetown University School of Medicine's complementary and alternative medicine master's degree program. Based in the department of physiology and biophysics, it is the first degree-granting master's program in complementary and alternative medicine in the United States. Dr. Fugh-Berman's research focuses on herbs and dietary supplements, women's health, the assessment of benefits and risks in alternative medicine and conventional medicine, and influences on physician prescribing. She has published articles in medical journals including The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, Reproductive Toxicology, and Experimental Biology and Medicine.
The implications for the credibility of the scientific literature in fields impacted by commercial interests cannot be understated. Dr. Fugh-Berman has done a great service to the scientific community and to all the people who rely on scientific advances for their well-being by bringing this issue to the forefront.