A new level of chutzpah in psychiatric ghostwriting

The New York Times has a revealing article about how a popular textbook for family doctors on how to treat mental illness, apparently written by two big name psychiatrists, was almost entirely written by a ghostwriting service under the direction of a large drug company.

Two prominent authors of a 1999 book teaching family doctors how to treat psychiatric disorders provided acknowledgment in the preface for an “unrestricted educational grant” from a major pharmaceutical company.

But the drug maker, then known as SmithKline Beecham, actually had much more involvement than the book described, newly disclosed documents show. The grant paid for a writing company to develop the outline and text for the two named authors, the documents show, and then the writing company said it planned to show three drafts directly to the pharmaceutical company for comments and “sign-off” and page proofs for “final approval.”

“That doesn’t sound unrestricted to me,” Dr. Bernard Lo, a medical ethicist and chairman of an Institute of Medicine group…

David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, is memorably quoted as saying “To ghostwrite an entire textbook is a new level of chutzpah.” “I’ve never heard of that before. It takes your breath away.”

The book is reported to be Recognition and Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: A Psychopharmacology Handbook for Primary Care by Charles B. Nemeroff and Alan F. Schatzberg.

Nemeroff. Now where have I heard that name before?

Link to NYT piece on ghostwritten psychiatry textbook.

7 thoughts on “A new level of chutzpah in psychiatric ghostwriting”

  1. Absolutely disgusting betrayal of psychiatric patients and health professionals. 20,000 GPs in the US and Europe conned into thinking they were receiving an independent publication.

    These supposedly ‘unrestricted’ grants from drug companies are so ubiquitous. Even the leading mental health charities here like Rethink and Sane, or the European outfit EUFAMI, are up to their necks in them, often producing joint publications or projects or websites where it’s not possible to tell how much they’re been instigated and framed and manipulated by the drug company “partner”.

  2. While I agree this is outrageous, please read the corrections at the bottom of the NYT article on December 8th noting that some of the material in the article was inaccurate. I think the inappropriateness of the pharma actions still holds, but it’s not quite as you represented the situation. As NYT states: “While documents show that SmithKline (now known as GlaxoSmithKline) hired a writing company for the book, they do not indicate that the company wrote the book for the authors, Dr. Charles B. Nemeroff and Dr. Alan F. Schatzberg. The article also described incorrectly, in some editions, events outlined in a letter from the writing company to Dr. Nemeroff. The correspondence proposed a timeline for the writing company to furnish the doctors and SmithKline with draft text and final page proofs for approval; the letter did not say that the company had already provided those materials for final approval.”

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