Key Opinion Leaders in medicine are paid to have an opinion

It seems that there are enough physicians out there who aren’t even a tiny bit embarrassed about referring to themselves out loud as “Thought Leaders” or “Key Opinion Leaders” to keep Canada’s Dr. Sergio Sismondo busy writing about them.

I first wrote about his work in A Philosopher’s Take on Big Pharma Marketing. Focusing on what he calls the pharmaceutical industry’s “corruption of medical knowledge”, the Queen’s University professor now has a new paper in The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics.

In it, he warns us about physicians and academic researchers who willingly become financially enmeshed in Big Pharma’s marketing efforts:(1)  Continue reading

Ethicists demand external, independent investigation of Dan Markingson’s death

In November 2003, psychiatrists at the University of Minnesota used the threat of involuntary commitment to force a mentally ill young man named Dan Markingson into a profitable, industry-funded study of antipsychotic drugs. Dan, who was mentally incapable of giving informed consent to participate in this research, was recruited into the study over the objections of his mother, Mary Weiss.

For months Mary tried desperately to get him out of the clinical trials, warning the psychiatrists in writing that Dan’s condition was deteriorating and that he was in danger of killing himself.

The psychiatrists refused to listen to her.

On May 8, 2004, Dan committed suicide, and Mary Weiss lost her only child.  Continue reading

A day in the life of a medical ghostwriter

With a university degree in biology, young David landed a new job with a medical communications company. His first writing assignment was to produce scientific abstracts for studies of a newly approved antibiotic. Alas, the drug had a major weakness: it didn’t work on pneumococcus, a common bacterium. But this wasn’t something the drug’s manufacturer (David’s client) wanted doctors to know.

So David and his fellow medical writers were ordered to just avoid writing about it.  Continue reading