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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20571

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Electronic Source

Burns M
Study unearths ‘surprising’ findings on doctors’ good publication practice views
Pharmalive 2013 Jun 26‘surprising’-findings-on-doctors’-good-publication-practice-views

Full text:

EPG Health Media collaborated with Parexel International on a survey, Good Publication Practice: the knowledge and views of healthcare professionals, that involved more than 293 healthcare providers to establish what physicians know about Good Publication Practice, what they think about medical writers and pharma funding, what influences those views and what, if anything, could be done to improve their views if necessary. The respondents were recruited from, the professional channel for doctors.

As outlined in the abstract, medical publication practices have in the past attracted widespread scrutiny and criticism. This has been primarily because many journal articles have been drafted not by named authors, but by professional medical writers who are often funded by pharmaceutical companies. Although the practice of using medical writers can improve both the quality and speed of publications, it also attracts controversy and concerns about lack of transparency, meaning the disclosure of authorship information, inappropriate influence of pharmaceutical companies, and conflicts of interest.

EPG Health Media mentions on its blog several preconceived ideas about what the study would reveal. The first expectation was that doctors, in general, would have a pretty good awareness of what qualifies someone to author on a peer-reviewed publication. The study showed that although 58 percent of healthcare respondents said that they were aware of Good Publication Practice Guidelines, only 10 percent correctly identified the correct criteria for authorship. In addition, whether the respondents claimed awareness of the guidelines or not did not make a difference to their ability to identify the correct authorship criteria.

The second expectation was that healthcare provider attitudes towards medical writers and pharmaceutical involvement in publications would be linked to their awareness of Good Publication Practices. The fact is that there was not a correlation between doctors’ awareness of Good Publication Practices and their attitudes towards professional medical writers or pharmaceutical involvement in publications.

“A great many doctors do not realise how strict the professional guidelines are for medical writers,” says Tom Rees, scientific strategy advisor, Parexel International. “Many of the activities they deprecate (such as paying authors) are actually specifically banned. It seems likely, then, that increased awareness that medical writing is governed by a professional code of conduct should improve attitudes.”

Medical journals are the most appropriate medium for increasing awareness of Good Publication Practices guidelines, Rees told Med Ad News. “Editorial that touches on pharmaceutical industry involvement in publications should also mention GPP, and guidelines to authors should require adherence to GPP,” he says. “Of course, there’s a lot that industry professionals can do to spread the word, by engaging with journals and other media. There’s a lot that individuals can do, as well. Simply talking to authors and sending them a copy of the guidelines at the start of every project could make an enormous difference.”

A third expectation was that doctors with first-hand experience of bad publication practices, such as guest and ghost authorship, would have a more negative view of the involvement of medical writers and commercial sponsors than those with no such experience. The study results showed that doctors that had previously authored reported more trust in papers with a commercial sponsor than those doctors that hadn’t, and this was despite 54 percent reporting having co-authored papers with ‘guest’ authors, who did not merit authorship, and 70 percent reported working with ‘ghost’ authors, who merited authorship but were not named. Younger doctors are more trusting in commercially supported peer-reviewed papers than their more senior in age colleagues, who are perhaps more likely to have experienced outdated publication practices.

According to the EPG Health Media blog, the lack of existing studies on the topic may explain the misguided expectations.

Consistency in disclosure standards in necessary to gain full disclosure on articles, says Rees. “That’s tremendously difficult to achieve across such a diversity of publications,” he told Med Ad News. “A move toward a ‘contributorship’ model, where the exact contribution of each person who played a role in the publication is disclosed, and away from traditional notions of ‘authorship’ would help.”


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