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Justinian Lane
Justinian Lane
Contributor •

If a Professor Grades a Paper, Can He or She Claim Authorship of It?


Last year, I took a law school course entitled "Food and Drug Law." It was, as you probably surmised, a course about FDA regulation of food and drug products. My grade on the course was based entirely upon a written paper I spent much of the semester writing. I’m more than a little proud to say I got the top grade in the class; the equivalent of an "A Plus." Now, I lost track of how many hours I spent writing the paper. I’m going to guess that the professor spent 2 or less reading it and grading it. So, since my professor gave me an A Plus, would it be fair for him to claim he was the primary author of the paper?

In the real world, the answer is no. But apparently in Wyeth’s world, the answer is yes.

The New York Times recently broke the story about the vast amount of ghostwriting that Wyeth used to promote its former-blockbuster drug Prempro. (Which has been shown to cause an increase in breast cancer.) The New York Times story is here.

I’d particularly like to draw your attention to this document the article links to.

In it, Dr. Gloria Bachmann writes the following regarding an article she reviewed:

I reviewed the entire article and it is excellent. I only had one correction, which I highlighted in red. I don’t think that it needs any more drafts. It is the best article that I have come across on this topic. The table is definitely outstanding.

Overall, this is an A plus article!

Bachmann would later claim to be the primary author of this article based upon her review and the correction she made.

And the pharmaceutical industry complains that lawyers are unethical!

This is yet another in a seemingly infinite number of reasons why we (a) can’t trust pharmaceutical companies to be honest, and (b) need product liability lawsuits. If not for a product liability lawsuit, these documents never would have come to light. Doctors and patients alike would still think that Dr. Bachmann independently authored this article, when it was in fact spoon fed to her by a group of professional writers hired by Wyeth to promote Prempro.

One last thing: Even if you agree with everything I wrote in this article, it’s not OK to claim that you’re the primary author of it.


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  1. up arrow

    A professor can do this:
    And the czar of ethics can do this:
    That’s what you need to know about scientific publishing, ethics and integrity.
    Science is no more.

  2. Mike Bryant says:
    up arrow

    The pharmaceutical companies know no bounds. Thankfully they haven’t been calling all of the shots in the Supreme Court and in the White House lately. But they still have a lot of congressional puppets. Very good point.