A strongly worded editorial appearing in the open access journal Public Library of Science - Medicine
(PLoS Med) suggested the retraction of medical journal articles written by unacknowledged
Drugs in the News posted August 5, 2009 , ghostwriting was defined as a pharmaceutical
industry practice of contracting with medical communications companies to write medical journal
articles and solicit and pay physicians or pharmacists to be authors. The extent of ghostwriting in
the medical literature is unknown.
The PLoS editorialists ask the poignant question and give
an uncomfortable answer for users of the medical literature:
Q: "What ... can I truly
trust as being unbiased?"
A: "... sadly, for some or even many journal articles,
we just don't know."
The PLoS Med editors argue and in our view correctly "... any
papers where this breach [ghostwriting] is substantiated should be immediately retracted and those
authors found to have not declared such interest should be banned from any subsequent publication
in the journal and their misconduct reported to their institutions."
in exploring ghostwriting in greater detail are referred to the PLoS Med's Wyeth Ghostwriting
Archive at http://www.plosmedicine.org/static/ghostwriting.action.
We asked the reference librarians at the Learning Resource Center if
the there is a method to identify retracted medical journal articles in PubMed. In fact, there is.
Retracted publications are an article type the same way a review or a clinical trial is an article
type. There is a LIMIT box that can be checked for retracted articles or the word
"retraction" can be added to a search. Additional information on the National Library of
Medicine's policy on journal article retractions can be found on their Web site at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/errata.html.
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