Updated July 13, 11:55 a.m. | A complaint filed with the federal Office of Research Integrity alleged that a group of psychiatrists, including an associate professor at the Harvard Medical School, signed their names to an academic paper written by a communications firm hired by a major pharmaceutical company.
Gary S. Sachs, a researcher affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, is one of five doctors identified in the formal accusation filed July 8 by University of Pennsylvania professor Jay D. Amsterdam.
The psychiatrists allowed the medical communications company Scientific Therapeutics Information, hired by SmithKline Beecham, to draft a paper using their names, according to the complaint. The paper, according to Amsterdam, suggested that the antidepressant Paxil can help treat some cases of bipolar disorder.
SmithKline Beecham, which has since merged into the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, manufactured Paxil.
The practice known as ghostwriting is widely condemned by scientific journals. The World Association of Medical Editors calls ghostwriting “dishonest and unacceptable.”
The complaint includes messages sent between those affiliated with the study, as well as their supervisors. The attached messages include professors saying that Scientific Therapeutics Information and SmithKline Beecham selected the first author of the paper and failed to provide the paper to all investigators before submission.
But the messages also seem to portray a feud between Amsterdam and University of Pennsylvania Associate Professor Laszlo Gyulai, one of the accused researchers. In one message, Amsterdam accuses him of stealing his research.
“As per your investigation there is little doubt that these data were misappropriated from me and used and published without my knowledge and without regard to the significant contribution that I made to this study,” Amsterdam wrote in an email to Gyulai’s supervisor.