Senator Chuck Grassley is chasing ghosts.
Any NIH funds back there?
The Iowa Republican, who's been a bulldog on conflicts of interest in academic medicine, has asked the National Institutes of Health to tell him what it's doing about ghostwriting by NIH-funded researchers. You can read the letter, obtained by NPR, here.
The New York Times reports again this morning on the common practice of drugmakers arranging for the publication of favorable articles in medical journals under the names of prominent doctors. Companies paid by drugmakers draft the articles, find willing doctors to lend their names and prestige, and then submit them to journals. The financial arrangements often remain hidden.
Grassley's following the money with his letter to NIH. Influential researchers, usually big recipients of federal funding, are the ones the drug industry covets to front the ghostwritten articles. Grassley's letter to NIH calls out five doctors who received NIH research funds and whose names appeared atop ghostwritten articles.
The NIH told the Times that the responsibility for policing ghostwriting falls upon institutions that employ the researchers.
Despite some claims that industry is cleaning up its act, ghostwriting goes on. James Stein, a cardiologist at the University of Wisconsin, tells the Times, "It happens all the time," citing a request he'd gotten three days before the interview "to be the author of a ghostwritten article about the effectiveness of a cholesterol-lowering drug."