Medical Writing Risk Management Special section: Winners of the Geoff Hall Scholarship essay competition

Volume 24, Issue 2 - Risk Management

Special section: Winners of the Geoff Hall Scholarship essay competition

The Geoff Hall Scholarships (GHSs) are given in honour of a former President of EMWA. Geoff was a very special person, an extremely valued member of EMWA, and a very good friend to many EMWA members. He firmly believed that the future of EMWA lies in our new and potential members, and so it's a very fitting legacy that we have the Scholarship Awards in his memory.

The Scholarships are awarded annually on the basis of an essay competition, and the title of this year's essay was ‘Are medical writers ghostwriters?’. There was a record number of entries, and although it sounds like a cliché, it's genuinely true that the essays caused a lot of debate and discussion among the GHS committee and it was not an easy task to choose just two winning entries. However, two were eventually chosen, and the very worthy winners were Andreas Sakka and Nicholas Churton.

Andreas Sakka has worked as a professional medical writer at Caudex Medical since June 2014. After graduating from Imperial College London with a BSc in Biochemistry, Andreas moved into industry. He has worked for a number of companies, including Smiths Detection and GE Healthcare, primarily developing in vitro and in vivo diagnostic technologies for various diseases. Following redundancy, Andreas decided to leave the lab to join the world of medical communications.

Nicholas Churton works as a medical writer at ICON Plc involved in medical writing projects concerning clinical study reports, patient narratives, safety documentation such as developmental safety update reports, editorial reviews and book reviews. Before this, Nicholas was a student at the University of Bath, UK, where he studied for a MSc in Biology. After this he moved to the University of Southampton, UK, to study for a PhD in microbiology. He is currently awaiting examination.

Andreas' and Nicholas' winning essays are presented below, and we wish them the very best at the start of their very promising medical writing careers.

 

By Andreas Sakka

Are medical writers ghostwriters? Yes.

At least they may appear to be to the layperson. Ostensibly, medical writers and ghostwriters are professional writers, providing a service to paying clients, creating literature that is published under somebody else's name. This much is true and, with such a concise and unambiguous description, one may think that there is little to dispute regarding the difference between the two. However, a deeper look at the subject reveals a crucial difference that clearly separates medical writers and ghostwriters.

The fundamental distinction between medical writers and ghostwriters is that of visibility. Ghostwriters are typically paid to create literature, in whole or in part, on behalf of an author but their own identity and contribution is never revealed. Without insider knowledge, it would be impossible to recognise that an author did not create a piece of work on their own or what level of assistance was given. The ghosts are invisible, and the invisible cannot be held to account.

Ghostwriting -along with the associated practices of ghost authorship and non-declaration of funding sources or conflicts of interest- has, in the past, contributed to incomplete and misleading publications of scientific data pertaining to various therapies. Ultimately, this caused harm to patients prescribed inappropriate drugs. Two of several such scandals involved Merck's drug Vioxx and Wyeth's hormone therapy drugs. Between these two ca

References

  1. Goldacre B. Hit and myth: Curse of the ghostwriters. The Guardian. 2009 August 8.
  2. The PLoS Medicine Editors. Ghostwriting: The dirty little secret of medical publishing that just got bigger. PLoS Med. 2009;6(9):e1000156.
  3. Stretton S. Systematic review on the primary and secondary reporting of the prevalence of ghostwriting in the medical literature. BMJ Open. 2014;4(7):e004777.
  4. Smith R, Gøtzsche PC, Groves T. Should journals stop publishing research funded by the drug industry?. BMJ. 2014;348:g171.
  5. ICH guidelines. The International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use [cited 2014 July]. Available from: http://www.ich.org/products/guidelines.html
  6. Jacobs A, Wager E. European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) guidelines on the role of medical writers in developing peer-reviewed publications. Curr Med Res Opin. 2005;21(2):317–21.
  7. AMWA code of ethics. American Medical Writers Association [2008 June; cited 2014 July].
  8. International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) position statement: The role of the professional medical writer [2007; cited 2014 July]. Available from: http://www.ismpp.org/ethics
  9. Gøtzsche PC, Kassirer JP, Woolley KL, Wager E, Jacobs A, Gertel A, et al. What should be done to tackle ghostwriting in the medical literature? PLoS Med. 2009;6(2):e1000023.
  10. Logdberg L. Being the ghost in the machine: A medical ghostwriter's personal view. PLoS Med. 2011;8(8):e1001071.

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Articles

Risk Management
President's Message
The changing face of (benefit-)risk management
Pharmacovigilance medical writing: An evolving profession
A shot at demystifying the risk management plan for medical writers
Using social media as the patient's voice in the benefit-risk assessment of drugs: Are we ready?
Special section: Winners of the Geoff Hall Scholarship essay competition
News from the EMA
Profile: An interview with Ingrid Edsman on why attending EMWA conferences is so rewarding!
The Webscout
In the Bookstores
Regulatory Writing: Review process in regulatory writing
Lingua Franca and Beyond
Gained in Translation
Manuscript Writing
English Grammar and Style: Revising medical writing Reasons not rules: Backtracking, pronoun-induced Part 3 - Double syntactic unit revision and syntactic position revision
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