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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.300.8.902-a

To the Editor: The study by Dr Ross and colleagues1 and the Editorial by Drs DeAngelis and Fontanarosa2 open a long overdue debate on ghostwriting and guest authorship. The case of rofecoxib is likely just one example of a widespread practice. The Editorial focuses mostly on the direct financial aspects of the guest authorship (ie, payment by the industry or by its proxies) and points out that guest authorship is unprofessional and demeaning to the medical profession and to scientific research. However, the potential direct financial gain is not the only benefit of guest authorship. Other benefits include prestige and increasing the number of an academic author's publications. The publications are used in the process of promotion and in the evaluation for merit increases and/or salary bonuses (which, although relatively small for some prominent authors, may be significant for others). Thus, guest authors are receiving an unfair advantage over many of their academic colleagues.