, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 371-375

Why Does Academic Medicine Allow Ghostwriting? A Prescription for Reform

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ghost writer (n., orig. U.S.): a hack writer who does work for which another person takes the credit -- Oxford English Dictionary

A book, paper, or speech that involves an author who is not given credit is considered ghostwritten, at least according to most dictionary definitions. This straightforward and seemingly commonsense definition has yet to be accepted within academic medicine. Over the past 15 years, the academic medical community has quietly tolerated the presence of ghostwriters in the medical literature, a practice that no other segment of the university community has allowed. A medical research paper containing a subtle endorsement for a medication carries more weight with clinicians and patients if the pharmaceutical company that wrote the paper is not mentioned in the authorship byline, especially if it lists prominent university professors from prestigious institutions.

The practice of ghostwriting is neither rare nor harmless. Alleged ghost authors haunt the clinical tri

This article was accepted for publication on May 3, 2011.