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Ghost writers need to be more visible

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39104.595463.94 (Published 25 January 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:208

Poachers and Gamekeepers

I am getting ever more confused:-

Challenged by me just over two years ago in Rapid Responses Adam
Jacobs was unwilling to name a single article which he had co-authored and
also defended practices which make my hair stand on end [1]. He remains
shy about declaring which pharmaceutical companies he works for but in
Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons he noted: "AJ's company
regularly provides services to a variety of pharmaceutical companies, some
of which make vaccines, including SmithKline Beecham and Aventis-Pasteur'
[2]. There is no client information on his website [3].

Liz Wager lists as clients on her website Fujisawa, GlaxoSmithKline,
Janssen-Cilag, Ortho-Biotech and the Royal Brompton Hospital [4] but not
here. She is also a member of the BMJ Ethics Committee [5].

The Nordic-Cochrane study, just published Gøtzsche et al
'Ghost Authorship in Industry-Initiated Randomised Trials'
is full of citations of Jacobs and Wager, and lists intriguinly 'Liz
Wagner' as academic editor [6]. Is this a slip, a thinly disguised alias,
or a different person? The journal of publication has an accompanying
article by Elizabeth Wager 'Authors, Ghosts, Damned Lies, and
Statisticians' [7] which states:

"Elizabeth Wager is a medical writer and trainer for a variety of
organizations, including pharmaceutical companies. She is a coauthor of
the European Medical Writers Association guidelines for medical writers
and Good Publication Practice for pharmaceutical companies, and
occasionally receives payment for speaking about or providing training on
publication ethics." [7]

Acknowledging the help of ghosts is a limp response. They are either
authors or not, and not including them or listing their competing
interests leaves us as helpless as before. Nor is the generalised approach
adopted by Wager and sometimes Jacobs sufficient: we need to see a proper
list of patrons, and we need to know what the have worked on. This is
anything but transparent, and we end with agencies which should be
policing, collaborating. Even BMJ does not appear to know whether it is
coming or going.

[1]Rapid Response for Kamran Abbasi, 'Transparency and Trust':
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/329/7472/0-g

[2]http://www.jpands.org/vol9no4/correspondence.pdf

[3]http://www.dianthus.co.uk/index.htm

[4]http://www.lizwager.com/

[5]http://resources.bmj.com/bmj/about-bmj/ethics-committee/committee-
members

[6]http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-
document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040019

[7]http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-
document&doi=10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0040034

Competing interests:
Autistic son

Competing interests: No competing interests

09 February 2007
John Stone
none
London N22