September 24, 2021

Legal Remedies for Medical Ghostwriting: Imposing Fraud Liability on Guest Authors of Ghostwritten Articles

Legal Remedies for Medical Ghostwriting: Imposing Fraud Liability on Guest Authors of Ghostwritten Articles

Summary Points

  • Ghostwriting of medical journal articles raises serious ethical and legal concerns, bearing on the integrity of medical research and scientific evidence used in legal disputes.
  • Medical journals, academic institutions, and professional disciplinary bodies have thus far failed to enforce effective sanctions.
  • The practice of ghostwriting could be deterred more effectively through the imposition of legal liability on the “guest authors” who lend their names to ghostwritten articles.
  • We argue that a guest author’s claim for credit of an article written by someone else constitutes legal fraud, and may give rise to claims that could be pursued in a class action based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
  • The same fraud could support claims of “fraud on the court” against a pharmaceutical company that has used ghostwritten articles in litigation. This claim also appropriately reflects the negative impact of ghostwriting on the legal system.

Source: PLoS Medicine

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