Will write for Big Pharma grants

August 30th, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  2 Comments

From an article in University World News:

The practice of ghostwriting, where pharmaceuticals companies convince university professors to put their names on articles written by someone else, was brought further into the light after a Canadian professor admitted she wrote only a portion of a published paper, despite being listed as sole author.

McGill University psychology professor Barbara Sherwin issued an apology, saying she regretted not disclosing the fact that pharmaceutical giant, Wyeth, had paid a firm to work on an article published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The article ran in 2000 and reported that oestrogen could help treat memory loss in older patients.

Colour me unsurprised. When I was an academic, universities were salivating at the prospect of “commercially relevant” research. “Knowledge transfer and mobilization” were big buzzwords, and the lawyers quietly followed behind researchers like cleaners after a parade, negotiating patents and commercial applications.

Does this mean I’m arguing that all academics should be debating how many deconstructed angels can fit on the head of a pin? Hell no, the unbelievable irrelevance of some of the research is one reason I got the fuck outta Dodge. (Seriously, are all cultural theorists just total sci-fi geeks or what? Guys, who cares about Buffy?)

Obviously there’s gotta be a happy medium between earnest, de/colonialist queer interpretations of obscure episodes of cable TV shows, and building the next superweapon for the military while cackling all the way to the bank.

But it does illustrate that scientific integrity is often not compatible with commercial interests, especially where Big Pharm is involved. Realize that the fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that benefits by you being a clueless sucker, and approach their material accordingly, with healthy skepticism and common sense.

(Except me, because everything I say is brilliant, witty, and factual.)

I must say, though, that this passage in the article disturbs me:

Mina Dulcan, editor of the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which published a study on paroxetine and children, told the BBC investigative show Panorama two years ago that she was not bothered by the fact the published article was at odds with the data and appeared to have been ghostwritten.

“I don’t have any regrets about publishing at all. It generated all sorts of useful discussion which is the purpose of a scholarly journal,” Dulcan said.

Umm kay, so, you’re totally OK with an article about MEDICINE FOR CHILDREN that could be bullshit, and which practitioners would use to prescribe MEDICINE FOR CHILDREN? Did I mention that this involves the possible factual nature of MEDICINE FOR CHILDREN? WTF people? Did this editor used to work in the Froot Loop and Count Chocula breakfast cereal manufacturing division or something? Come on Dulcan, I thought I didn’t like children, but damn that’s cold.


  1. Lieke says:

    September 2nd, 2009at 3:19 am(#)

    Here in Europe some new initiatives have come up, having the Pharma industry, and academia work together on a large number of health an disease-related research projects (e.g. malaria). Dutch government provides a large part of research funding.
    Through a PPP (public private partnership), run by both Pharma and Academia related managers and subsidised by the government, funding is provided for diverse but always non-commercial phase medical research projects. The funding comes from all three involved parties, and research facilities are spread out throughout universities and pharma companies.
    Considering most research academics are so badly paid that they have to bite their nails for extra sustenance, and are not the best of lobbyists where fundraising is concerned, it’s a good initiative.
    This PPP system could be useful elsewhere (say, North Americs)but needs a good and constant check on the influence of Pharma companies, among others for the reasons described above.

  2. Tue, Sept 15th – CrossFit Ireland - Great People. Great Fitness. says:

    September 14th, 2009at 5:07 pm(#)

    […] Abundance & Scarcity – Seth Godin Will Write for Big Pharma – […]

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