Don’t paint a broad ghostwriting brush

August 31, 2009

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RE “DRUG firms’ manufactured buzz’’ (Editorial, Aug. 25): I am a medical writer who prepares reports of clinical studies, submissions to the FDA, and manuscripts for publication. With the recent barrage of editorials and witch-hunting by Senator Charles Grassley, I feel that the whole of my profession is being personally attacked for the actions of the few.

What particularly incensed me was the last sentence of your editorial stating that “Hired-gun wordsmiths have no place in the important process of physicians and patients informing themselves about new treatments.’’

I don’t know how “hired-gun wordsmiths’’ is being defined, but medical writers play a legitimate role in the dissemination of medical knowledge, and I am proud to be a member of this profession.

I agree wholeheartedly that ghostwriting (undisclosed drafting of a manuscript) is a clear violation of ethics. However, acknowledged medical writing help is not ghostwriting.

In addition to assistance with writing, editing, and fact-finding, the medical writer lends valuable expertise to the lead author in the stylistic requirements of the many scientific journals to which manuscripts are submitted for publication.

This is a collaborative effort between the writer and the authors, and in no way, should be lumped in the category of “ghostwriting.’’

Judith M. Pepin
Mason, Ohio

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