Confronting the Ghost: Legal Strategies to Oust Medical Ghostwriters

September 25, 2017


Articles published in medical journals contribute significantly to public health by disseminating medical information to physicians, thereby influencing prescribing practices. However, the information guiding treatment decisions becomes distorted by selective publishing and medical ghostwriting, which negatively affects overall patient care. Although there is general consensus in the medical community that these practices of publication bias represent a moral failing, the issue is rarely framed as a wrong that necessitates legal consequences.

This Note takes the stance that medical ghostwriting constitutes an act prohibited under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and argues that physicians fraudulently named as authors should be held civilly liable under RICO. This Note explores civil RICO, its origin, its legislative and judicial history, and the evolution of RICO to areas beyond traditional organized crime. By applying the elements of civil RICO to medical ghostwriting, this Note argues that physicians named as authors who knowingly fail to fulfill journal authorship criteria should be held accountable for their role in disseminating misleading medical information. This Note argues that, at the very least, current regulations governing the medical publication framework should be better enforced and revised to mandate authorship disclosure.

October 2017

No. 1