Letter to the editor
As a member of both the AAN and the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), I write to provide additional perspective on the issue of ghostwriting in medical journals (“Neurology Journals: How They Hope to Discourage Ghostwriting,” July 17).
As pointed out in a 2008 editorial by L.L Alexander and S. Hudson in the AMWA journal, many discussions do “…not distinguish between “ghostwriting”— the failure to disclose the contribution made by a medical writer — and the assistance provided by medical writers to legitimate authors.”
Further, these authors state that “…medical writing assistance is an important contribution to scientific research,” and the AMWA strives to achieve transparency by advocating for acknowledgment of a medical writer, as stated in the AMWA “Position Statement on the Contribution of Medical Writers to Scientific Publications” (see www.amwa.org/default.asp? id=308). Thus, the word “ghostwriting” is viewed by many as pejorative, and the AMWA encourages all to refrain from its use.
Many of the alleged abuses cited in recent articles could be resolved by a simple disclosure of the involvement of medical writers on the manuscript — a solution proposed by many, including Neurology Editor John Noseworthy, MD, in the journal's “Upcoming Changes for Authors” article (December 2007).
I should disclose that I have been a scientist and author for more than 30 years, and consulted for nearly 20 years with numerous pharmaceutical and biomedical firms in developing biomedical products. Part of my business involves compensation from biomedical firms to write scientific manuscripts, and I own stock in Inspire Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and King Pharmaceuticals.
At one point, many leading journals would not acknowledge the contributions of professionals such as biostatisticians or medical writers on manuscripts. I am pleased to see the changes in which acknowledgment of such individuals is given, and now, with the position of Neurology, assigning them authorship status.
Gary Novack, PhD
PharmaLogic Development, Inc. San Rafael, CA