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 articlesand lectures at medical conferencesis 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.
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 Wil
Contact: Laura Cavender
Georgetown University Medical Center