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    Louise Fuller of CCS reports on a successful NetworkPharma MedComms Lunchtime Briefing - "Ghosts in the Machine?".

    In addition to the opportunity to meet friends and colleagues in an informal setting, we had an excellent talk from Liz Wager of SideView. All of us in the medical communications industry live in a world in which the editors of peer review journals are increasingly uneasy – not to say paranoid on occasions – about ghost writing. It is in all our interests to improve transparency – to give confidence to the journal editors and publishers and to reassure our pharmaceutical industry clients of the benefits of a publication planning approach.

    So, how can we ensure that medical writers and the companies that employ them can continue to work on articles on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry without falling foul of journal editors? Liz pointed out that the concern of most journal editors is that the authors listed on a paper are truly responsible for the scientific content. If a ghost writer is involved, then the suspicion is that the paper was written by a writer in the pay of ‘Big Pharma’ and that the authors may simply have been paid to put their name to the article. The spectre of bias and incorrect reporting then raises its ugly head. To address this problem there are three main sets of guidelines for our industry – Good Publication Practice (GPP), World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) and the European Medical Writers Association (EMWA). Although the target audiences and approaches taken are different the objectives are the same – transparency over the issue of who wrote the manuscript.

    Those of us who regularly draft manuscripts on behalf of pharmaceutical clients and their opinion leaders certainly do not set out to create biased manuscripts and in many years in this industry I have universally met with high levels of academic integrity from medical writers. Liz suggested that there are several steps that we can take now to deal with concerns over ghost writing.

  • We can educate our clients and our colleagues about the existence and content of the guidelines, and encourage them to develop new, more transparent publication procedures.
  • Companies should be encouraged to perceive medical writing as a profession with a specific and valuable expertise. The development of a manuscript by a professional writer should be considered a sensible means of creating a good quality piece of scientific writing.
  • Communications agencies and medical writers can encourage pharmaceutical companies to acknowledge the role of a professional writer in the drafting of the manuscript, either as a main author or in the acknowledgement. It should be clear that the writer was funded by the pharmaceutical company. Companies could consider using a standard phrase for the acknowledgements section of manuscripts such as ‘We thank writer X of company Y who provided writing services on behalf of Z pharmaceutical company.

    The flip side of the coin is that both freelance and company medical professional medical writers should resist being pushed into becoming ghost writers, though Liz did acknowledge that this may sometimes be an uphill struggle. Involvement of the external opinion leader authors at an early stage is important, and a professional writer should suggest this to their client if it is not happening already. Writers can also try to discourage their clients from commissioning detailed work on a manuscript before the authors have been confirmed.

    Many thanks to Liz for highlighting this issue and for giving us all so much food for thought.

    To make sure you're included in announcements about future events just email Peter Llewellyn, if you haven't already done so, to register your interest.








    Hosted by Elsevier

    Supported by Radcliffe Publishing

    This event was
    led by:

    Led by Liz Wager, author of Getting Research
Published: an A to Z of Publication Strategy
    Liz Wager, author of
    'Getting Research
    Published: an A to Z
    of Publication Strategy'


    Aspen Medical
    Axon Communications
    Chemistry Search
    Constella Group
    Health Press
    Inspired Selection

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