Intended for healthcare professionals


Drug company chiefs accept the need for more openness

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 20 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:163

Ghost authorship in evidence-based medicine

On 13 Jan 2005, the House of Commons health select committee
addressed the influence of the pharmaceutical industry (1). People present
have not yet had the opportunity to correct the transcript of the
evidence, but according to the uncorrected transcript, witnesses from
GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca declared that it is unacceptable to try to
get a prominent scientist to put his name on a paper without having had
any kind of involvement in the process at all (2).

However, on 16 April 2003, three Danish senior physicians in
gastroenterology received a letter from “a publication manager with
AstraZeneca in Sweden working with Nexium”. The letter stated that these
three doctors had a special interest in evidence-based medicine and might
possibly be interested to serve as authors for an enclosed manuscript
which described basic tenants of evidence-based medicine and "a further in
depth look at some litterature ... to see how EBM can be used to analyze
recent Nexium studies".

The manuscript had the names of the three gastroenterologists as
authors on the title page and suggested publication in Journal of Outcomes
Research. This journal advertises on its homepage that papers are peer
reviewed in 7-10 days and that final acceptance takes 21 days (3). There
are fees for submission and publication.

The manuscript gave some facts about evidence-based medicine and then
discussed two trials in reflux esophagitis that compared esomeprazole with
lansoprazole. The manuscript concluded that esomeprazole
was significantly more effective. We know that two of the approached "authors" declined to participate; the third declined to comment when asked about the episode. So far as our researches have been able to establish, the paper proposed by AstraZeneca has not been published.

This attempt at a ghost-written publication is ironic since evidence-based medicine
is a safeguard against unsound claims, in particular from the
pharmaceutical industry. We conclude that the pharmaceutical industry
should be judged on what it does and not on what it says it does.

1. Eaton L. Drug company chiefs accept the need for more openness.
BMJ 2005;330:163.

(accessed 14 Feb 2005).

3. (accessed 14 Feb

Competing interests:
PCG none. PWJ has previously obtained small grants from AstraZeneca for various purposes.

Competing interests: No competing interests

01 March 2005
Peter C Gøtzsche
Peer Wille-Jørgensen, Consultant Surgeon, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen
Nordic Cochrane Centre, Rigshospitalet, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø