Horse thieving, train robbing and medical ghostwriting

Reid train robber

"An important civic function held in his honor"

I know there are many of my colleagues working in the field of public relations who cringe at the word ‘spin’, as in:

“What kind of positive spin can we put on this horrible mess?”

I am not one of them. Spinning can be an elegant skill (particularly when it means providing clarifying information that might be unknown to your stakeholders) – and more so because it is done rather badly by most.

Consider the spin on this story about a snobbish American politician who was dismayed to learn that his great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for robbing trains and stealing horses in Montana. In fact, the only known photograph of Remus is this one showing him standing on the gallows in 1889.   Continue reading

Partners in Slime: Why medical ghostwriting is so alarming

medical research NYT

“It’s prostitution!” claims University of Toronto professor of law and medicine, Trudo Lemmens, describing how medical school academics engaging in ghostwriting “undermine the integrity of the whole system”.

But since few academics will ever confess that they weren’t actually the real authors of all the medical journal articles they have taken credit for, the full extent of drug company-funded medical ghostwriting fraud may never be known. With the recent public release of 1,500 court documents implicating drug giant Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and its partners in slime, maybe now the medical profession will finally develop a collective backbone. Continue reading

Medical ghostwriting: if you’re not alarmed, maybe you’re just not paying attention

ghostwriting questions money I had to go have a little lie-down after I read the The New York Times story this week about the scandalous practice of  medical ghostwriting. Here’s how Danish researcher Dr. Peter Gøtzsche describes medical ghostwriting:  “Ghostwriting occurs when someone makes substantial contributions to a manuscript without attribution or  disclosure. It is considered bad publication practice in the  medical sciences, andsome argue it is scientific misconduct. At its extreme, medical ghostwriting involves pharmaceutical companies hiring professional writers to produce papers promoting their products–  but hiding those contributions and instead naming academic physicians or scientists as the authors.

Here’s an extreme example of extreme medical ghostwriting. The New York Times and the journal Public Library of Science Medicine have outlined recent court documents revealing that ghostwriters paid by drug giant Wyeth Pharmaceuticals played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers published in medical journals that backed the use of hormone replacement therapy in women. That supposed medical consensus benefited Wyeth directly, as sales of its HRT drugs Premarin and Prempro soared to nearly $2 billion by 2001.   Continue reading