August 24, 2009

McGill prof named in ghostwriting scandal

A university professor in Montreal is implicated in a ghostwriting scheme, accused of writing articles paid for by a pharmaceutical house that were published.

Court documents said McGill University psychology professor Barbara Sherwin was listed as the only author of an article on estrogen's beneficial effects on memory loss, when in fact, it was written by a freelance writer paid by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, The Montreal Gazette reported Monday.

The documents said the author was hired by DesignWrite, a New Jersey firm paid by Wyeth to produce ghostwritten articles that were submitted to reputable scholars.

Court records show the article attributed to Sherwin was submitted to her by DesignWrite and she said she made many editing suggestions.

I wrote a portion of the article, but not all of it, although only my name was listed as its author, Sherwin said in a statement released by McGill to the Gazette Sunday. Other parts of that article were written with the assistance of DesignWrite, a firm which, it turns out, was employed by a pharmaceutical manufacturer to assist in the development of academic articles. I made an error in agreeing to have my name attached to that article without having it made clear that others contributed to it.

Sherwin is the first Canadian researcher involved in the ghostwriting scheme, which was first reported by The New York Times and the journal Plos Medicine.

The ghostwriting was uncovered by lawyers working for 8,400 women who are suing Wyeth, claiming hormone drugs caused them harm. Twenty-six papers were published in 18 medical journals, including The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The International Journal of Cardiology.