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Saturday, August 20, 2011

McGill reprimands prof over ghostwriting scandal

By AARON DERFEL, Gazette Health Reporter
Barbara Sherwin
McGill University has formally reprimanded senior professor and researcher Barbara Sherwin for failing to acknowledge a ghostwriter hired by drug company Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in a paper Sherwin wrote in 2000.
However, the university has decided against sanctioning Sherwin, who is a James McGill professor of psychology, obstetrics and gynecology.
In August 2009, Sherwin's name appeared in court documents in a class-action suit launched by 8,400 women against Wyeth. The documents revealed that Wyeth paid a New Jersey professional-writing firm, DesignWrite, to produce a paper on treatment options for ageassociated memory loss that was eventually published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Sherwin was listed as the sole author of that paper, even though Karen Mittleman, an employee of DesignWrite, was involved in the process. The paper was published just when critics started raising doubts about hormone-replacement therapy.
Wyeth - through DesignWrite - had commissioned at least 40 scientific papers endorsing the therapy. The drug company (now part of Pfizer) had a vested interest in HRT, as sales of its hormone drugs soared to almost $2 billion in 2001.
Shortly after the revelations from the court documents were made public, Sherwin issued a written statement in which she admitted to making "an error" in agreeing to have her name attached to the article without making it clear that there was another author.
"I believe the article, which was peer-reviewed, represented sound and thorough scholarship, and in no way could be construed as promotion for any particular product or company," her statement read.
Still, an eight-month investigation found that Sherwin should have credited Mittleman.
The entire story can be read here.