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Perspective

Being the Ghost in the Machine: A Medical Ghostwriter's Personal View

  • Linda Logdberg mail

    linda.logdberg@gmail.com

    Affiliation: Biologist, Fernbank Science Center, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America

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  • Published: August 09, 2011
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001071
  • Published in PLOS Medicine

Reader Comments (3)

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"Who you gonna call?"

Posted by brsnyder58 on 07 Sep 2011 at 03:19 GMT

Ms. Logdberg is certainly entitled to relate her personal experience, but it differs significantly from my own. I have been a medical writer for 30 years, having worked for 4 different pharma companies (big and small). When I have written manuscripts, I have always worked directly with the lead author(s), who have been in academic or private/group practice settings. I've never felt I couldn't or shouldn't have as much interaction with these authors as I needed to write an accurate, informative manuscript. I also take exception to the assumption that because a writer (or a pharma company) is involved with the production of a manuscript that the product is inherently "fraudulent." In my opinion, use of a professional medical writer to help convey results of a clinical study does not constitute fraud any more than using a dictionary to find the right word or a computer instead of a pen - as a medical writer, I consider myself a valuable tool for clear, efficient communication.
There are always going to be people who will stoop to any depth to make a buck, including committing outright fraud. However, damning the entire pharmaceutical industry (or academic institution - lest we forget the cases of fraud in that setting) because of the actions of a few unethical members would be like imprisoning the siblings of a convicted bank robber. And the damnation-by-association of writers who work in that industry is like imprisoning the convict's cousins too. I understand and absolutely agree that we all must be vigilant to ensure that ethical standards are upheld but, when vigilance turns to vigilantism, everyone is suspect.

Competing interests declared: I have been a medical writer in the pharmaceutical industry for 30 years and am currently employed as Director of Medical Writing by Warner Chilcott (US), LLC. But the views stated here are strictly my own. I am also the current President-Elect of the American Medical Writers Association (although I declare that as a supportive interest, not a competing one).