June 25,2010

Grassley Releases Medical Ghostwriting Report, Recommends NIH Promote Transparency

WASHINGTON --- Senator Chuck Grassley has released a staff report of the Committee on Finance on the practice of medical ghostwriting and is urging the National Institutes of Health to incorporate its findings in new, final disclosure guidelines.

The committee staff report is based on a two-year review of the role that pharmaceutical and medical device companies play in developing articles for publication in medical journals.

Grassley has expressed concern about the lack of transparency when industry pays third parties to write articles for medical journals which are then marketed to research and other physicians for their signatures.

Last year, Grassley wrote to eight major medical journals and ten leading medical schools asking them to describe their policies on ghostwriting as part of his continuing effort to shed light on financial ties between the pharmaceutical and device industries and medical professionals.  Prior to that, he asked two major drug companies about allegations that they hired ghostwriters to draft articles promoting company products and sought academics to sign on as primary authors. 

In May, the National Institutes of Health proposed new disclosure guidelines for federal grant recipients in response to Grassley’s work to expose cases where leading medical researchers failed to report monies received from medical companies. 

In a letter sent to the NIH this week, Grassley urged the agency to adopt policies that would ensure appropriate reporting and disclosure of the contributions made by the pharmaceutical and device industries in developing medical literature.  Grassley also recommended that NIH-funded research be published only in publications that have adequate disclosure policies on authorship and the contributions made by non-authors.

“The National Institutes of Health, academic institutions, and medical journals play an important role in ensuring adequate and meaningful disclosure.  Public dollars and public trust are at stake in research and the practice of medicine.  The expert opinion and recommendations presented in medical journals influence decisions made by doctors and their patients and the coverage determinations made by government health programs,” Grassley said.

Grassley has successfully advocated for legislative and administrative reforms to establish greater transparency with payments that pharmaceutical and medical device makers make to physicians.