Scott Lemieux’s “Tech Central Journal of Medicine”: excerpts a WSJ article that uncovers some pretty nasty practices in medical academic publishing.

bq. In 2001, the American Journal of Kidney Diseases published an article that touted the use of synthetic vitamin D. Its author was listed as Alex J. Brown, an associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis. But recently, that same article was featured as a work sample by a different person: Michael Anello, a free-lance medical writer, who posted a summary of it on his Web site. Mr. Anello says he was hired to write the article by a communications firm working for Abbott Laboratories, which makes a version of the vitamin D product. Dr. Brown agrees he got help in writing but says he redid part of the draft. It’s an example of an open secret in medicine: Many of the articles that appear in scientific journals under the by-lines of prominent academics are actually written by ghostwriters in the pay of drug companies. These seemingly objective articles, which doctors around the world use to guide their care of patients, are often part of a marketing campaign by companies to promote a product or play up the condition it treats.

bq. …

bq. Susanna Dodgson, who holds a doctorate in physiology, says she was hired in 2002 by Excerpta Medica, the Elsevier medical-communications firm, to write an article about J&J’s anemia drug Eprex. A J&J unit had sponsored a study measuring whether Eprex patients could do well taking the drug only once a week. The company was facing competition from a rival drug sold by Amgen Inc. that could be given once a week or less. Dr. Dodgson says she was given an instruction sheet directing her to emphasize the “main message of the study”… That report said the study’s goal “could not be reached.” Both the instruction sheet and the report were viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The higher figure Dr. Dodgson was asked to highlight used a broader definition of success and excluded patients who dropped out of the trial or didn’t adhere to all its rules. The instructions noted that some patients on large doses didn’t seem to do well with the once-weekly administration but warned that this point “has not been discussed with marketing and is not definitive!”

Meanwhile, the backers of the real Tech Central Station may have been involved in the New Hampshire “phone-jamming scandal”:

bq. McGee’s testimony suggested that the DCI Group, a powerful public relations firm which publishes the Tech Central Station website and is closely connected to the Republican party, was involved through lawyer and New Hampshire native Bruce McCabe. He also said he had talked to Darrell Henry of the American Gas Association, who said that he would keep the phone jamming going after it was officially called off.

Alternative frenzy of renown

by Chris Bertram on December 15, 2005

“Pootergeek has a post”: on using “Google’s blogsearch”: as an alternative to Technorati. For full instructions follow the link to his site, but meanwhile “here’s the search set up for Crooked Timber”:

Nagel’s Atlas

by Harry on December 15, 2005

A.J. Julius posted an earlier version of this paper on his website a few months ago, and I’ve only just got around to blogging it. It is a crisp and powerful critique of Nagel’s recent defence of the claim that the scope of justice is limited by national boundaries (free content). Julius makes the same foundational assumptions as Nagel and shows, elegantly, that the boundaries of justice are nevertheless….well, global. I’m a big fan of Julius’s work, so I might be a bit baised, but I think its terrific. Forthcoming in Philosophy and Public Affairs, presumably in the issue after the one that’s just been announced, so get it while its hot, as Larry Solum likes to say.

Shawcross and frivolous conceits

by Chris Bertram on December 15, 2005

I wasn’t going to post about “last night’s BBC Newsnight”: (still watchable for a few hours) which staged a mock trial of allied conduct in the “war on terror”. Clive Stafford Smith, the advocate for the prosecution, was simply in a different class from his opponent John Cooper. Via “Oliver Kamm’s site”: I learn that William Shawcross was invited to take part in the programme and declined, apparently because the “trial” format would constitute a trivialization of serious issues. As Shawcross puts it:

bq. A ‘courtroom’ pastiche is a fashionable but frivolous conceit …. The allegations about “rendition” need a thorough investigation and merit the closest attention of Newsnight, but a ‘trial’ will do nothing in that regard.

But commenter Max Smith at DSPFW “reminds us”: that Shawcross had no such qualms two years ago when “he appeared”: as an advocate in a similar televised “trial” on the war (on Channel 4). I’m sure that losing by 2 to 1 in that debate had no impact on his general view of the merits of such devices.

Update: Kamm has emailed me to say that “frivolous conceit” is a phrase of his making rather than Shawcross’s. Others seem to have also read the passage in Kamm’s post as a direct quotation rather than as Kamm summary of Shawcross’s communication with him. The basic point stands, presuming that Kamm’s summary accurately reflects Shawcross’s thinking.

Council proposes, Parliament disposes..

by Maria on December 15, 2005

… and Brussels imposes.

Or not. Ireland – or rather the Irish Dept. of Justice – is threatening to legally contest the traffic data retention directive passed (with disgraceful ease) by the European Parliament (EP) this week. The directive will force internet service providers and telcos to store at their own cost all the traffic data of their users in case it is ever required by government agencies. Using the well-worn ‘national competence’ argument, the Irish government is arguing that the EP had no right to decide about data retention in the first place. The argument runs like this; Ireland should retain its veto in sensitive justice matters, and should not be told what to do by the European Commission and EP. This is a very disingenuous argument on the face of it, and rather perplexing when you dig deeper.
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Iraq Votes

by Kieran Healy on December 15, 2005

Iraqis “vote for their first post-Saddam, full-term parliament”: today. As I write this it’s just before 7am in Arizona, but I’m sure some warbloggers are already up and about, compiling evidence of indifference to freedom and democracy amongst anti-war types.

My own view on the long-term prospects hasn’t changed much since “last January’s elections”: If the goal is a viable multi-party democracy, then in the short-term the election should be free and fair with a clear winning coalition, which ideally would then lose the next election and peacefully hand over power. Back in January I thought it looked like this:

It’s often said that the key moment in the growth of a democracy is not its first election but its second, because—as Adam Przeworski says somewhere—a democracy is a system where governments lose elections. The question planners need to be asking is what are the chances that Iraq will be able to do this again in four or five years without the presence of U.S. troops and with the expectation that whoever wins will get to take power. This partly depends on whether some functioning government can really be established within the country, and partly on whether the U.S. wants a working democracy in Iraq (with the risks that implies) or just a friendly puppet state. … Unlike thousands of desk-jockey warbloggers, I don’t have any expertise in Iraqi politics. But it seems to me that if Iraq is going to succeed as a democracy then it has to consolidate itself in something like this way. A continued heavy military presence by the U.S. won’t help this goal, because it won’t do anything to legitimate the government as an independent entity. … The current prospects are not good at all, especially with respect to the continuous attacks on the new police force and the efforts to systematically eliminate the nascent political class. The fact that Iraq has a lot of oil and was formerly a brutal dictatorship doesn’t help much either. … Cases of successful transitions in resource-rich nations are few.

This time around, as before, voting will probably go reasonably smoothly (by Iraqi standards I mean: there will probably only be a small number of attacks and deaths), and this counts for a lot. I think the main problem will be the protracted round of post-election negotiations between the various blocs. If it’s anything like January’s election, we might not see a government for months. Another drawn-out tussle between the two or three biggest slates will do little to consolidate the legitimacy of the election or the institutions of government, especially seeing as the occupying power has a strong interest in seeing their favored groups win. An outcome like that will just continue to raise questions about the viability of the state itself, while doing little to change the day-to-day round of violence.


President Bush said yesterday he is confident that former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is innocent of money-laundering charges, as he offered strong support for several top Republicans who have been battered by investigations or by rumors of fading clout inside the White House.

Now help me finish this thought by providing links to ALL those occasions when the President has not been so forthcoming. Mr. Google gives pretty good hits in response to “Bush won’t comment on ongoing investigations”.