June 23rd, 2011
How Scientific Literature Has Become Part of Big Pharma's Marketing Machine
In 2005, Trudo Lemmens and a colleague wrote “Ethics for Sale,” an article in Slate that ripped the bandage off the sordid underbelly of human clinical trials in the United States.
“If you missed the movie The Constant Gardener and need your fix of moral outrage, you don’t have to go to Africa to find it,” they wrote.
The article caught the attention of editors over at the journal PLoS Medicine, who invited Lemmens and his co-author, bioethicist Carl Elliott, to publish a written debate against Ezekiel “Zeke” Emanuel, a government bioethicist who is the brother of Rahm Emanuel and was a close advisor to President Obama on healthcare issues.
The topic? Research ethics.
“We crushed him, because we were right and he was wrong,” says Dr. Elliott, a professor at the University of Minnesota. “You can always depend on Zeke to give the industry perspective.”
Lemmens Not a physician, Lemmens is a professor of law at the University of Toronto. After law school, he did two master’s degrees and then a doctorate in law at McGill University, where he examined genetic discrimination. In his spare time, he delved into the ethics of clinical trial research.
Mr. Lemmens then published papers on ethics in human research, conflicts of interest in medicine, and on restoring scientific credibility to commercial research. In “Leopards in the Temple,” he argued that pharmaceutical research regulations have failed to protect patients’ interests, and that our broken system must be replaced by an independent drug testing agency.
Last month, he brought together a host of experts for the first international meeting on corporate-funded ghostwriting in medicine. POGO caught up with Mr. Lemmens recently to ask him a few questions about ghostwriting—find his edited responses below.