Drug Maker Pays Ghostwriting Firm to Write Medical Textbook

As reported in todays New York Times Smith Kline Beecham (now Glaxo) utilized the services of professional medical ghostwriters Scientific Therapeutics Information located in Springfield, New Jersey to develop a timeline, outline and content for a medical textbook. The 269 page text, Recognition and Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: A Psychopharmacology Handbook for Primary Care used to teach doctors how to treat psychiatric disorders with drugs has as its official authors two prominent medical authors. But an acknowledgment in the preface of the book for an unrestricted educational grant from SKB raised the investigative ire of lawyers suing Glaxo for damages related to its anti-depressant blockbuster drug Paxil.

As a result of documents obtained in those lawsuits, it is alleged that SKB hired STI to not only set up deadlines for the publication and to assist the authors, but also to write outlines and detailed chapter content. In essence, it is alleged that STI wrote the book, and the medical authors signed off on the transcript. Dr. David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner noted To ghostwrite and entire textbook is a new level of chutzpah. Ive never heard of that before. It takes your breath away. Naturally, the authors and Glaxo claim that SKB had no involvement in content and that the authors themselves conceptualized the entire book and worked on all the content themselves.

As noted in some of my earlier blog posts, documents obtained in various drug lawsuits have shown that drug companies regularly use ghostwriting companies like STI (see Merck and the Vioxx litigation, for example, in which our firm was involved) to generate medical literature that supports, promotes and props up the use of a company’s drugs to doctors in order to increase sales. But as Dr. Kessler said, ghostwriting a whole textbook takes this to a new level.