HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Pointing to evidence that HIV is not the necessary and sufficient cause of AIDS

Corruption in medical science: Ghostwriting

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/12/10

Not so long ago,  I said:
“In my memoirs of deaning, I had written, ‘I would find myself thinking, Now I’ve seen everything; nothing can surprise me anymore, only to experience a novel surprise the next day or the next week’”.
That was in connection with an FDA panel recommending that the purported but unproven anti-cervical-cancer vaccine, which has been reported as responsible for some serious “side” effects including deaths, should be made available to vaccinate young boys to protect them — supposedly, unprovenly — against the less-than-worrying possibility of genital warts. I say “unproven” because the vaccine is only claimed to protect against HPV, the human papilloma virus (and not even all of its strains), and the connection between HPV and cervical cancer or genital warts is purely a matter of association, correlation: no causative relationship has been established. As I find myself repeating ad nauseam, correlation doesn’t prove causation.

So that FDA recommendation surprised even this cynical observer. But almost immediately I found myself gagging over a story (by Paul Basken) in the Chronicle of Higher Education of 18 September 2009, p. A10: “Ghostwriters Haunt the Integrity of Medical Journals — Company-sponsored contributors enhance, without disclosure, university researchers’ papers”.
The story also reveals that “enhance” is a misleading euphemism: the unnamed individuals actually did all the meaningful work.
Dr. Lisa M. Shulman, newly appointed assistant professor of neurology at the University of Miami and serving a fellowship on Capitol Hill “was overworked and under-resourced”. She accepted an offer of help in writing research articles from DesignWrite, a business employed by (among others) the drug company Wyeth. DesignWrite “select[ed] background information on connections between estrogen and Parkinson’s disease, and . . . draft[ed] a proposed summary of the existing data” whereupon Shulman “wrote” “her” article which failed to mention DesignWrite or Wyeth, which happens to sell estrogen pills.

There could hardly be a more obvious case of deceitful publication — excluding, that is, such corporate deceit as Elsevier’s publishing of no fewer than 6 “journals” that were actually “sponsored” by drug companies (“Merck published fake journal”; “Elsevier published 6 fake journals”).

If a student were to do what Dr. Shulman did, it would be labeled unequivocally as plagiarism or fraud, and it would lead at a minimum to failing the relevant course, at worst to suspension or even dismissal from the college. Yet this sort of thing has become so common in “medical science” as to be routine. “A study presented last week . . . found that in The New England Journal of Medicine, at least 11 percent of the articles had ‘ghost’ authors. Another study tracked attempts in the late 1990s by Parke-Davis, now a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc., to get articles published concerning its medication Neurontin. The pharmaceutical company succeeded in placing 11 articles in seven journals, none of which disclosed its role in authorship and only two of which acknowledged its financial support” (Basken, op. cit.).

Those who participated in these deceptive, potentially damaging practices emit “apologies” and “excuses” reminiscent of the words of politicians: use of the passive voice (“mistakes were made”) and failure to acknowledge wrongdoing, calling it mere negligence. Thus Dr. Shulman called her transgressions “an oversight”. She “sees little harm in accepting outside professional help, since she takes full responsibility for the published contents. Her article, she says, is a dispassionate examination of whether estrogen has any connection with Parkinson’s disease. The article opens by stating that ‘increasing evidence’ supports the use of estrogen for guarding against Parkinson’s, although it notes conflicting findings based on variations in age and dosage. ‘There is nothing in my paper that is favorable to Wyeth,’ says Dr. Shulman, who denies that her actions constituted ghostwriting” [emphases added].
Shulman might do well to bear in mind that when you’re in a hole, it’s best to stop digging. Even better, she should find a job she can do without outside help.

Barbara B. Sherwin, a psychology professor at McGill University, lent her name to an article written by a freelance author working for Wyeth: “I made an error in agreeing to have my name attached to that article without having it made clear that others contributed to it”.
NO: her “error” was in not doing the work that the article tried to disseminate.
If Shulman or Sherwin were to have given proper acknowledgment, they would not be able to cite those articles on their vitae as personal accomplishments. Indeed, their names would not appear in the authorship line at all; or if they did, it would be stated clearly in footnotes that their actual contributions were at most editorial.

Another attempt to make black seem white came from Matthew R. Weir, director of nephrology, University of Maryland Medical Center, who tried to minimize the fraud by saying that “such articles typically appear only in lower-tier medical journals, which are recognized as less reliable”. Again it’s not clear how that is supposed to be an excuse. “Dr. Weir has himself been . . . accused in a lawsuit against the drug maker Merck of signing his name to an article that played down the chances that the company’s Vioxx medication might raise the risk of heart attacks. The co-author on the report was a scientist employed by Merck. Dr. Weir says he stands by the data in that article”. It is nowadays common knowledge that VIOXX does indeed raise the risk of heart attacks.

Then there’s the attempted evasion that such “articles don’t mention specific drugs by name, and instead just give a general endorsement of a particular therapeutic approach that happens to align with the medication offered by the company”. Right; just happens to. Would the article ever have been conceived otherwise?

“Rogerio A. Lobo, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, says DesignWrite contributed work, unattributed, to one of his published papers. But the company’s role was limited to assembling existing research on a subject, providing statistics and charts, and copy editing. He says he substantially changed the final version by cutting out entire sections and eliminating the endorsement of a particular product. ‘I don’t consider that ghostwriting,’ he says. ‘I’m the responsible person, and I stand by it, and I wrote it’” (emphases added; Basken, op. cit.). Thus Lobo admits clearly that his only contribution was editorial or secretarial, not the central and essential work of getting the data.

“Both ghostwriting’s detractors and its alleged participants agree that the difficulty of defining the practice makes it tough to eliminate”.
The only proper characterization of that statement, as of the “apologies”, is BULLSHIT — statements made without regard for their truth. Everyone who contributes to an article must be identified, and best practice has long been that on multi-authored papers the contributions of each individual are spelled out. In that case, the question of ghostwriting cannot even arise. No need to try to define it; just don’t do it. As pointed out by “Steven E. Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic . . .  ‘No amount of editing,’ . . . can justify an author’s using an undeclared contributor”.

DesignWrite, a “medical-communications company”, “regards its service as providing a public benefit. ‘We stand behind the accuracy of every article we have been involved in,’ says the company’s president, Michael Platt”.
No surprise there. If the articles are accurate in every detail of their data but failed (happened to fail) to include existing but contrary data, his statement would remain technically correct while misleading in the most important way. Brings to mind the point made by Paul Halmos that lying is sometimes OK, but misleading never is (see p. 168 ff. in To Rise Above Principle: The Memoirs of an Unreconstructed Dean).

Present practices raise “the specter of hidden bias in published papers that favor the effects of the company’s drugs. Doctors rely on such papers when making life-or-death choices about treating their patients” (Basken, op. cit.).
There’s nothing trivial about this, and no lame excuses should be countenanced. Faculty who plagiarize and deceive in this manner should be disciplined even more harshly than students who plagiarize. Students do it often enough through ignorance rather than deliberately, but that cannot be said of these senior miscreants who even seek to justify their misdeeds. These people are a disgrace to the profession of medicine and to the scholarly academic profession.

The larger significance is that “research” nowadays is an activity engaged in by people who don’t belong there. Honest original research is very hard, and the rewards are few, far between, and anything but guaranteed (just ask Peter Duesberg, say). The only good reason for getting into it is because of an overwhelming desire to help gain new knowledge.
Publication should follow work, not precede it. It is preposterous for people like Lobo, Shulman, Sherwin, Weir, to be employed and described as researchers since their primary aim is clearly careerist, to amass publications rather than to advance knowledge. “Preposterous” in the sense Jacques Barzun explained:

That is preposterous which puts the last first and the first last. . . .
Valuing knowledge, we preposterize the idea and say . . .
everybody shall produce written research in order to live,
and it shall be decreed a knowledge explosion.

— Jacques Barzun, The American University (Harper and Row, 1968) 221


Though there is no mention above of “HIV” or “AIDS”, the connection ought to be obvious enough: The manifold misdeeds of HIV/AIDS “researchers” are part and parcel of an overall corruption of medical “research”. People like Lobo et al., above, are, in the words of Susan Haack, “fake reasoners” who don’t care about the truth-value of what they put their names to; they emit bullshit. Mainstream HIV/AIDS “researchers” are what Haack calls “sham reasoners“, people who seek only to support a pre-existing belief (Susan Haack, “Science, scientism, and anti-science in the age of preposterism“, Skeptical Inquirer 21 #6, November/December 1997).

10 Responses to “Corruption in medical science: Ghostwriting”

  1. Karri said

    Dear Dr Henry,

    Although this doesn’t have to do with today’s article, I’m anxiously awaiting your thoughts/comments/commentary on the recent release of Ms. Maggorie’s autopsy report.
    I’m sure the “evil ones” are rapidly organizing their game plan to make their pitiful attempt to distort and destroy this official report.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Karri: The HIV/AIDS groupies and vigilantes have no interest in evidence or facts. They belive in The Big Lie getting accepted just so long as it’s repeated often and loudly enough. Any AIDS Rethinker who dies from any cause that could even remotely resemble an “AIDS” disease will be stated by them to have died of AIDS, no matter what the death certificate says, no matter what the autopsy report says, no matter that there’s a history of “HIV-negative”.

  2. Josh Nicholson said


    As my grandfather once said,

    “Around 1970 when Ronald Reagan was the governor [of CA] everything changed. The whole university setup just changed overnight. The students changed. They had become already sort of brainwashed about the university being a place where you learn how to make a good salary and have a good living. So on and so forth. And the notion of science began to be tied to that. You found less people in there for the surprises and more people in there for the prizes.”

    I think the last sentence is very telling of “modern science.” People are willing to put their names on ghostwritten articles because they are getting a publication and furthering their career as well as their pockets. “More people for the prizes and less for the surprises.”

    • Henry Bauer said

      Josh Nicholson: “The students changed”, your grandfather noted. So did I, during the 1980s I saw almost annually a significant decline in work ethic and performance by the students in my large freshman chemistry classes — classes big enough that averages and statistics could be relied on reasonably well. In the mid-1990s, I wrote an essay about “Students who don’t study”, posted on the Internet. Just last week I got an e-mail from a professor at Unievrsity College, Dublin, Ireland:
      “Dear Professor Bauer,
      I just came across your essay online, and I thought you might like to know that it really touched a chord here in Dublin twelve years on”.
      I replied that I was sorry to learn that globalization has come to pass also in students’ work ethic.

  3. mo79uk said

    I’ve been worried for a few years by certain studies I’ve seen even when it’s made clear they’ve been ‘supported by x brand’. You only need to re-read them once to understand they’re very thinly veiled press releases.
    Even if the study references a fairly generic drug it still equates to higher probability of sales somewhere within Big Pharma.

    Medical professionals and laymen generally trust these names, so even without financial incentive there is a perverse sort of parental trust in them.

    If by contrast you seek support from a non-drug product that supports ‘your’ thinking, and you make it clear, you’re instantly painted as being in it for the money.

    Also, regarding Ms. Maggiore’s death; even if she died at a grand old age, it’s no joke to think they’d attribute it to AIDS.

  4. Francis said

    Season Greetings, fellow denialists (sic).

    Not that I like to quote from my friend Snout, but in this thread the orthodox jackals are triumphantly dancing on the grave of a Lambros Papatoniou who recently passed away at 63 years of age. Their claim is that he ceased his HIV medication 2 years ago and therefore undeniably died of AIDS.

    In the very same thread it is pointed out that a South African treatment activist, one of the first to receive ARV therapy had continued on it until his recent death at 59 years of age. The orthodoxy blatantly say he probably died of natural causes, being 59 and all.

    It illustrates the capacity for the orthodoxy to “cherry pick” data is astounding.

    Seth Kalichman is already crooning over Christine Maggiore’s death as proof positive of the “denialists” folly. And I suppose it’s a welcome and good foil to the growing panic about Montagnier’s comments in House of Numbers that has occupied so much time lately on sites akin to Seth, Snout and the Idiot DeShong.

    Sadly, it would not have mattered what Christine died of, being that she didn’t take the prescribed poisons and was a pain in the backside to the orthodoxy. She had said it herself several times, the result was always going to be HIV/AIDS-related no matter what. Indirectly that could be true, but not for the reasons the orthodoxy espouses.

    The orthodox’s zealotry in defending its paradigm is unparalled outside of religious purges. There is no room for questioning anything in the current theory.

    It appears to me and others, the HIV test detects some biologic activity in a human. Many many rethinkers, denialists call us what you will, think this. And when you realise how the test was developed it is not hard to understand why it would.

    Curiously, all today’s tests (including PCR) are still derived from the immortal sera of “BRU” which was the sample sent by Montagnier to Gallo. In fact “BRU” is the reference standard for all things HIV/AIDS. It is never listed what other little nasties were in BRU’s (a Parisienne bath-house afficianado) sera. Gallo “cherry picked” some 30 of the most reactive proteins from his home-made soup and, with no real science behind it, selected some 8 of the 30 as definitive of HIV’s genome. On the basis of guesswork alone HIV came to be, continues to thrive, and every single test of every type is derived from it. The irony here is that “BRU” will outlive Gallo.

    I’d like to know why they never isolated their proteins from an American Caucasian, say one of the 5 first victims that triggered this disease crisis? Is it possible that France, which has a large population of negroid ancestry and interaction with the same gave us a protein that now reacts more readily with Africans? So the accidental choice of a reference protein/s triggered a humanitarian crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa? Are the proteins cross-reacting with other disease states or oxidative stress, being that in order to immortalise “BRU’s” sera they had to oxidise it with interleukin II and several other embalming compounds? Is the appearance of virus-like particles normal in cells that you have poisoned and nuked, just as they are in stressed out, dying, detached placentas? These are legitimate questions, but not allowed by the high priests of AIDS. To allow the question would be to admit there are faults in the theory and, unlike the Pope, AIDS et al. would not be infallible after all.

    What is clear to me, is that after 25 years and lotsa billions, the main statement that comes out in HIV/AIDS scientific papers is that “We do not fully understand…….this, that or anything”. And it is well past the time to open the research parameters. Montagnier and Gallo stumbled across something, it is natural that being virologists and specifically retro-virologists they think it is an M class retro-virus. If the Mad Cow/Kuru team had got a test going first we’d be putting on condoms against prions now, it is as fickle as that.

    If say a nominal 10% was directed from the HIV/AIDS research bucket to look for any alternative factors, it would not impact the mainstream greatly. There would probably still be a market in there for the pharmaceuticals, just not ARVs. There is scope for new and ambitious scientists to win Nobels etc. and the possible benefit to mankind would be enormous. No wonder Pride is the first of the 7 deadly sins.

    I wonder how the orthodoxy would react if Rethinkers started a web-site devoted solely to those who have died while taking their medicines. I doubt if the Rethinkers are as shallow, disrespectful and so desperate to make their point, to do something like that. I’d be guessing, but think it would be a full-time occupation for someone. Shame on them.

    If any of you in cyberland are interested in the depths that the orthodox can sink to, go have a quick visit at Seth Kalichman, Reckless Endangerment or dissidents@dumbees. I find them quite amusing, none more so than the latter who has trouble stringing sentences together and is most interested in self-adulation and outbursts of random hystrionics. A regular visitor to all those sites is Professor John P MOORE, the vanguard of the orthodox establishment. He won’t respond to valid questions but maintains a regular dialogue in these cyber-cess-pits.

    Not many sleeps now till Santa comes. I only wanted one present. A rational world.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Francis: By all means visit those Snout et al. blogs for amusement, but bear in mind that if you read gutter stuff too much you may be subliminally influenced into forgetting what civilized discourse is. Bear in mind too that these are wannabe’s: they would like to think that they speak for the orthodoxy, but they do so even less than the motley rag-tag of economists, freshly minted MDs, and the like who call themselves AIDStruth. To see what the real mainstream orthodoxy says, go to CDC publications and official websites: the self-contradictions and absurdities are so plentiful that there are dozens of blog posts that I haven’t had time to write or finish.
      As to deaths of HAART-taking activists, see “AIDS” deaths: owing to antiretroviral drugs or to lack of antiretroviral treatment?, 2 October 2008. A colleague of Christine Maggiore’s had put this list together and she asked me to post it. The median age of death from “HIV disease” in 2004 was 45. The mean age of death was 44 of the prominent AIDS activists who died in the HAART era.
      Re cross-reactions, there’s ample evidence that “HIV+” can mean almost anything or almost nothing, and certainly that people of African ancestry are much more likely than others to test “positive”; in South Africa, repeat blood donors who are black test positive more than 20 times as often as those of Indian or Caucasian ancestry, data and tables in my book.

  5. Sabine Kalitzkus said


    It’s a sad story you’re telling here about the inhuman working conditions of the science industry.

    But I’m wondering about the peer-review process now. It would be even more inhuman to increase the burden of these already overworked and under-resourced workers by demanding them to review the papers of their peers.

    Are there already some companies like Peer Review Inc.? Or do companies like DesignWrite et al. have special peer-review departments? It would certainly be more convenient and less costly to keep the writing and reviewing jobs under one roof.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Sabine Kalitzkus: I was in two minds about approving your comment, because DesignWrite or some other entrepreneur might steal your idea before you’ve had a chance to patent it. But on deeper reflection, I realized that in-house “peer review” is already practiced in official agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: they generate the data and they “review” it and then publish it.

    • Sabine Kalitzkus said

      Having learned from other people’s experiences I filed my patent application this morning. Though I must concede that the patent officer indeed seemed a bit nervous, precisely because of the CDC procedures. But then a senior colleague told him that those procedures have not yet been approved as proper peer-review. So my application might even be successful.

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