The Carlat Psychiatry Blog contacted psychiatrist Prof C. Lindsay DeVane about an article on antidepressant drug interactions he apparently co-authored for the medical journal CNS Spectrums. In reply, DeVane noted that the article was ghost-written on behalf of a drug company and denounced it as “piece of commercial crap” and ‘ridiculous’, ‘inaccurate’ and ‘simplistic’.
DeVane was apparently persuaded to take part in a round-table discussion on the interactions between antidepressant drugs, for which attendees could gain ‘CME’ or ‘Continuing Medical Education’ points, needed for doctors to demonstrate that they are keeping their skills and knowledge updated.
After the discussion, the a commercial medical education company i3CME, produced an article based on a video tape of the session with the participants names listed as authors.
Ghostwriting, the practice where drug companies or medical writing agencies create scientific articles to which established researchers add their names, still occurs, despite recent attempts to clamp down on it.
It relies on an academic system where researchers’ careers depend on the number of publications, and on drug companies’ need to boost the profile of their products by adding the names of high-profile scientists to the relevant research.
It’s a big business, and there are a number of agencies that just specialise in writing scientific articles for commercial companies that later get handed to ‘star’ researchers for, at best, checking, and at worst, just signing.
In this case, it seems the article was written without DeVane’s agreement, so it’s refreshing to see someone disown it, rather than simply add it as another gold star to their CV.
Importantly, DeVane notes that his views on the topic had already been accurately and fairly represented in an earlier article [pdf] which he had personally authored.
The Carlat post has more details on the affair, including DeVane’s own description of what occurred.