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
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."
Readers interested in
exploring ghostwriting in greater detail are referred to the PLoS Med's Wyeth Ghostwriting Archive
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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