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Take a Memo: Ethics and Giving Credit

Patricia Harned | June 10, 2008

I first heard the story on the radio: Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, had ghostwritten a number of research studies about a best-selling drug that, not coincidentally, Merck had developed. Prestigious doctors had then signed on as authors of the reports for publication in medical journals.

An article in The New York Times condemned the situation, indicating that the practice was widespread and saying it “almost calls into question all legitimate research that’s been conducted by the pharmaceutical industry with the academic physician.”

To be honest, when I first heard the news story I didn’t think about ethics—I wondered how doctors find time to author journal articles. I did give the matter more thought when I heard staff talking about the headline in the office, but even then, I wondered if there really was a problem. After all, doctors can review research data before they sign their names to reports, right?


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