Companies Use Medical Journals for Marketing Purposes

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In a commentary titled "The Corporate Coauthor" published online by the Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM), 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 co-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.

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.; Source: Georgetown University Medical Center