To the editor:

We regret to read that the editors at Blood would outright reject a review manuscript, regardless of its scientific merit, if someone employed by a pharmaceutical company had any role in the development of that manuscript.1  This stance implies that all scientists employed by a pharmaceutical company do not have the ability to be unbiased while writing or contributing to a manuscript. We have extensive experience working closely with many scientists from a variety of pharmaceutical companies (as well as with academic-based authors) in the development of scientific publications. We have found that these scientists are typically highly trained physicians and postdoctoral scientists who have been trained by or worked alongside their academic-based counterparts. They made a life decision to leave academia for any number of reasons—tired of the endless pursuit of grants from an ever-dwindling pool, underwhelmed by the unpredictable and uncertain career path—and now, having left the academic setting, find themselves the object of disparaging accusations.

The expertise of scientists employed by a pharmaceutical company is frequently recognized and called upon by academic physicians. These scientists have focused their careers on drug research and have extensive knowledge of the resulting clinical data as well as the therapeutic area. In addition, it would not be uncommon for an author preparing to write a review article to contact the medical information department of a pharmaceutical company and request relevant data. Either may be the case in the example cited in the “Ghostbusting” editorial, where the clinical investigator was provided several data sources from the pharmaceutical company. Apparently the author considered the data and wrote a manuscript that was deemed after the Blood peer review process to be “well-written, informative, and balanced.” The fact that the manuscript, which reviewers found to be balanced, was rejected because of acknowledged pharmaceutical company involvement suggests that the editorial review process has fallen to “scientific profiling.” Has the editorial review process become prejudiced against scientists from a different form of employment than their own?

In no way do we advocate ghosts of any sort, and by the same token we should recognize that there has been a positive shift during the last 4 to 5 years within the pharmaceutical and biotech environment to improve transparency of roles involved in the preparation of manuscripts. There is now widespread endorsement by these companies of Good Publication Practice (GPP) guidelines2  and increasing development of rigorous company-specific publication policies that recognize new and evolving regulations and guidance from the government (eg, the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 [FDAAA]) and various professional societies (eg, the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals [ISMPP]).

The peer review process—an assessment of the scientific content by qualified experts—remains the best method to evaluate the scientific merit of a publication; we urge editors of journals such as Blood to continue to use this method without profiling. The true measure of progress in medical publishing will be when the finger-pointing stops and we judge a submission based on content, strength of science, and methodology first and foremost, not on an inherent anti-industry bias.

Conflict-of-interest disclosure: D.D. is the founder of Envision Pharma, a medical publications specialty agency, and is currently a senior vice president at United BioSource Corporation. He also spent over a decade in the pharmaceutical industry. S.S., PharmD, is a senior manager at Envision Pharma. She has worked for 13 years in the medical communications arena, prior to which she was employed in the pharmaceutical industry and in academia as a researcher and teacher. N.B., PhD, MRPharmS, is a senior manager at Envision Pharma. He has worked for 15 years in the medical communications arena, prior to which he was employed in both academia as a researcher and the pharmaceutical industry in research and commercial roles. J.C., PhD, is a senior manager at Envision Pharma. She has worked for 12 years in the medical communications arena, prior to which she was an academic researcher in both the United Kingdom and United States.

Correspondence: Daniel Donovan, Envision Pharma, 3530 Post Rd, Southport, CT 06890; e-mail: [email protected].

1
Dunbar
CE
Tallman
MS
“Ghostbusting” at Blood.
Blood
2009
113
502
503
2
Wager
E
Field
EA
Grossman
L
Good publication practice for pharmaceutical companies.
Curr Med Res Opin
2003
19
149
154
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