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Dispute re Ghostwriting

Today we publish a letter to the editor of Psychiatric News that that publication refused to publish. Psychiatric News is owned by the American Psychiatric Association. The letter was in response to an article in Psychiatric News denying that a book published by the American Psychiatric Association titled "Recognition and Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: A Psychopharmacology Handbook for Primary Care" was ghost-written.
See also:
The New York Times report about ghost-writing of the book.
The denial published by Psychiatric News
Pharmalot report
The rejection letter from Psychiatric News
Project on Government Oversight blog entry
Health Care Renewal blog entry
Alison Bass blog entry
Carlat Psychiatry blog entry

 

28 January 2011
Carolyn B. Robinowitz
Interim Editor,
Psychiatric News

Letter to Editor
Text’s Provenance Remains in Dispute


Writing for the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Mark Moran claimed “APPI Documents Refute Claims About Text’s Authorship” (Psychiatric News 21 January 2011; Vol 46/2, p.1).  The nominal authors of the book (Recognition and Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: A Psychopharmacology Handbook for Primary Care) are Charles Nemeroff and Alan Schatzberg. We remain unconvinced of their authorship, for the following reasons.

Mr. Moran quoted another APA spokesperson, Mr. Ron McMillen, to the effect that Drs. Nemeroff and Schatzberg were actively involved “in every stage of the book’s development.” Note, however, that he did not venture to say they wrote the initial drafts – or indeed any drafts.   The released 49-page sample chapter draft provided by Diane Coniglio and Sally Laden, employees of Scientific Therapeutics Information, Inc (STI), is largely reproduced verbatim in the Handbook.  That there are drafts with the nominal authors’ margin notes does not establish who actually wrote the Handbook. It is standard procedure for the ghostwriting company, Scientific Therapeutics Information (STI), to provide initial drafts that are reviewed by the contracting corporation (here, SmithKlineBeecham, now GlaxoSmithKline - GSK) before being released to the nominal authors.

STI is a commercial service entity, not a scientific institute. Their stated mission is to maximize credibility for their clients’ products.  It is, therefore, no surprise that efforts to reach STI by Psychiatric News were not successful.  The APA’s spokespersons, Dr. James Scully and Mr. Ron McMillen, quoted in Mr. Moran’s article, have reached premature closure based on limited evidence.  To bring into full view the most significant evidence for this debate would require de-designation of numerous confidential documents from both GSK and STI, as part of Paxil litigation.  GSK, however, regularly invokes the Trade Secrets Act to ensure that the documents remain confidential and that their key opinion leaders are protected from exposure.

Finally, we take issue with the claim in Mr. Moran’s article that Drs. Nemeroff and Schatzberg “were not remunerated by GSK for any of this work.” Note that there is no mention of any indirect payments they may have received through the “unrestricted educational grant” to STI. Such arrangements are quite common.

We call on the APA/APPI to release all the key documents. The contract between STI and GSK will reveal how much influence GSK had on the content and tone of the book, and the role of GSK in approving drafts. Correspondence between Drs. Nemeroff and Schatzberg and STI will make it clear whether they followed the contract.  Transparency also requires release of any GSK marketing/ business plans for the Handbook; the legal release form transferring ownership from GSK to the ‘authors’ and APPI; marketing activities of GSK sales representatives detailing the Handbook; and correspondence among all parties regarding the “unrestricted” educational grant.

This case highlights the need for disclosure if we ever are to understand the scale of corporate influence on academic publishing. We look forward to Congressional action to require the release of these documents.

Bernard Carroll, M.B., Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman Emeritus
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, NC 27710

Robert T. Rubin, M.D., Ph.D. * Dr. Rubin is corresponding author.*
Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Los Angeles, CA 90073
Distinguished Life Fellow
American Psychiatric Association

Leemon B. McHenry, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy
California State University, Northridge
Northridge, CA 91330-8253

 

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