Professor at Canada's McGill U. Admits Signing Research Generated by Drug Maker

August 24, 2009

In the latest revelation in a widening scandal over ghostwritten scientific papers, a psychology professor at McGill University, in Montreal, has acknowledged putting her name on an article in a medical journal that actually was written by a freelance author under contract with the drug manufacturer Wyeth.

The professor, Barbara B. Sherwin, said in a written statement provided to The Gazette, "I made an error in agreeing to have my name attached to that article without having it made clear that others contributed to it."

The article appeared in the April 2000 edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Ms. Sherwin said that it was the only time she engaged in the practice and that the article itself "represented sound and thorough scholarship and in no way could be construed as promotion for any particular product or company."

The case is the latest in a series of incidents in which university professors have signed their names to articles initially written by freelance authors hired by DesignWrite, a company paid by Wyeth and other drug makers to produce research articles favorable to their products.

The article attributed to Ms. Sherwin listed her as its sole author, and argued that estrogen could help treat memory loss in older patients. Its full authorship was discovered by lawyers representing 8,400 women who filed suit against Wyeth, claiming they were harmed by its hormone drugs. The lawyers have so far discovered 26 such research papers printed in 18 medical journals, including The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the International Journal of Cardiology.

McGill's provost, Anthony C. Masi, said in a statement to The Gazette that the university had "an established process for investigating and dealing with such allegations" and would "look into this matter and take appropriate action."