Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Is Chuck Using a Ghostwriter?

There have been enough interesting stories about Charles Nemeroff, professor of psychiatry at Emory University, that I’m sure they warrant a posting or two.

Let’s start with ghostwriting and then move on to David Healy and then to conflicts of interest.

It is mentioned on Nemeroff's website that he has published “more than 750 research reports and reviews,” which is one impressive feat. In a quick Medline search, I turned up his earliest publication date as 1975. So, that’s about 30 years of publishing, putting him at 25 publications per year. I’m not saying the man is not legitimately prolific, but given his administrative responsibilities, major travel obligations (research and paid lectures across the country), and his time apparently spent trying to discredit David Healy (more on that coming soon), I wonder if he really had a legitimate role in 750-plus articles.

It appears that I’m not the only wondering if all of these publications are legit. Chuck had a recent publication in Neuropsychopharmacology where the wonders of vagus nerve stimulation were discussed. Let’s quote from Health Care Renewal’s great post on this subject:

“…the article acknowledged "editorial support" from a professional writer, who acknowledged to the Wall Street Journal that she was employed by the corporation for the task of writing a first draft. Although the authors claimed they provided substantive input after the first draft, it is ethically dubious to use a hired writer for a first draft.”

In other words, a ghostwriter wrote much (perhaps all) of the first draft, then Nemeroff and company added their pieces (or not) to the final draft. Who knows how many of the other 750-plus Nemeroff publications were, um, “assisted” by a ghostwriter? I’d have to defer to David Healy on that point.

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