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August 27, 2008

Guest Authorship, Mortality Reporting, and Integrity in Rofecoxib Studies

JAMA. 2008;300(8):900-906. doi:10.1001/jama.300.8.901-b

To the Editor: In their study of guest authorship and ghostwriting in articles on rofecoxib, Dr Ross and colleagues1 list 96 references in the table but do not systematically evaluate them, instead relying on a small number of anecdotes. They state that “[t]he limited nature of our source material . . . prevented an exact determination of the contributions of recruited authors to the overall design and conduct of the clinical trial and/or the preparation of manuscripts.” They could have addressed all of these issues by analyzing writing style or contacting the authors, and it is difficult to understand why this was not done. From my own publications, I was surprised to see references 79, 94, 96, and 108 as having been in a Merck publication status report since these were reviews independently invited by Lancet, Bailliere, Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, and Gut, respectively, and involved no contact with Merck beyond usual requests for all relevant sources for information.