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'Ghostwriting' in medical literature occurs when 'someone makes substantial contributions to a manuscript without attribution or disclosure'. Critics consider this to be an act of 'scientific misconduct' and it is generally considered 'bad publication practice'.[1]


In September 2009, the Guardian reported that a leading British bone specialist faced disciplinary action over accusations that he was involved in "ghost writing". The General Medical Council summoned Professor Richard Eastell from Sheffield University to a committee meeting. He admitted to agreeing to have his name used as first author of a study on the osteoporosis drug Actonel even though he did not have access to all the data on which the study's conclusions were based. [2] In November 2009, the GMC's Fitness to Practise (FTP) Panel concluded Eastell's conduct was not dishonest:

'Your failure to correct the statement before its publication in the JBMR [Journal of Bone and Mineral Research] occurred in 2002, when there was an evolving understanding of access to data. You did not knowingly allow inaccurate information to be published.' [3]

Aubrey Blumsohn who made the initial complaint to the GMC said:

'The GMC has done an important job in helping to define the meaning of data and the responsibilities of scientific authors… The council has determined that access to data to authors means proper unfettered access to raw data so that authors can check findings reported in their names. Scientists would otherwise be indistinguishable from clowns.'[4]


In September 2009, the Guardian reported that GlaxoSmithKline hired a ghostwriting programme named Caspper in which doctors could take credit for medical journal articles written by the company's consultants. According to documents held by a US law firm, the project was aimed at increasing America sales of the antidepressant paroxetine otherwise known as Paxil in the US and Seroxat in the UK. [5]


  1. Gøtzsche PC, Kassirer JP, Woolley KL, Wager E, Jacobs A, et al. (2009) What Should Be Done To Tackle Ghostwriting in the Medical Literature? PLoS Med 6(2): e1000023. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000023
  2. Bosely, S. British doctor faces action over claims of 'ghost writing' for US drug company. The Guardian. Accessed on 20 September 2009.
  3. GMC Fitness to Practise Panel minutes. 2-5 November 2009 Eastell Minutes Accessed 23 January 2010.
  4. Baty, P. 10 November 2009. Times Higher Education. Academic made ‘untrue’ declaration about ‘full access’ to research material, GMC finds Accessed 23 January 2010.
  5. Bosely, S. British doctor faces action over claims of 'ghost writing' for US drug company. The Guardian. Accessed on 20 September 2009.