Archive for the ‘Suspicion’ Category

Service of Ghost Writers

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I couldn’t wait until Halloween to write about the service of ghost writers. Full disclosure–some of my best friends are ghost writers and I have been one myself many times.

So I don’t see what the big deal is.

In The New York Times’ Friday, September 18 front-page Business Day section story, “Unmasking the Ghosts: Medical Editors Take On Hidden Writers,” Natasha Singer and Duff Wilson, write: “But now, in light of recently released evidence that some drug makers have gone to great lengths to turn scientific articles into marketing vehicles for their products, some influential medical editors are cracking down on industry-financed ghostwriting. And they are getting help from some members of Congress.”


My first reaction was: Duh. Pharmaceutical companies have been doing this for years and years. This doesn’t make it right or wrong…I was reacting to the “in light of recently released evidence” part.

My second: Aren’t we missing the point? Shouldn’t the issue be not who writes about a study but who pays for it? Isn’t the real objection about physicians or clinicians involved with pharmaceutical companies actually about whether some might bend the rules because pharmaceutical companies pay them to research and report on the effectiveness and reactions to their drugs? Isn’t the concern that their findings come out glossing over negatives so that a new drug–or new use of a traditional drug–promptly acquires FDA approval?

Back to the ghost writing issue. If you broke your arm, you might ask me to fill out a check for, say, $1,000 so you wouldn’t have to expend the energy. Then, you sign the check. The document would be valid, right?

Similarly, can’t we assume that the person whose byline appears on an article–whether it’s about architecture, interior design, beauty products, fashion or medical issues–has read, approved, stands behind and signs off on its contents?

Does every doctor–or entrepreneur, business executive, architect, interior designer or manufacturer–have the time to write or even know how to write effectively? No.

In the case of medical ghost writers, would it help calm editorial and Congressional nerves if articles were bylined, “By Crackerjack Researcher, MD as told to Great Writer?” or “in collaboration with Great Writer?”

What is the difference between a pharmaceutical company looking to spread the word about successful research about a drug through the experience and implied endorsement of a doctor and a manufacturer of fine furniture using photographs of handsome interiors that include their dining room chairs and bedroom pieces in a fabulous house designed by a well-regarded decorator?

So what am I missing? Please tell me what you think about ghost writing.


Service of Changing Your Mind

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I now love–but for years felt the opposite about–beer and eggplant. Periodically I would take sips and bites of each. No change. “There’s nothing like a cold beer on a hot day,” I’d hear, but unless I’d been lost in the Sahara desert in summer, without a drop of liquid for a day, I wasn’t to be sold, until one day not long ago, in a pub in England, I changed my mind. Same thing happened when I first tasted eggplant in Turkey.

Moral: When it comes to food and drink, keep on testing or you could miss something special.

When I first encountered Twitter, I thought, “How silly.” I’ve changed my mind. When people tweet judiciously, and when a large percentage of the links they refer me to are of interest, I follow them. And reading tweets from favorite news sources is a convenient way of keeping abreast of late-breaking news.

Moral: First impressions aren’t always accurate.

I’ve always ducked when asked to fundraise yet I agreed to chair development on the New York Women in Communications Foundation board this year. Ask me what I think next May, but right now I am excited at the prospect of knocking on corporate doors looking for support of a topflight student conference and other Foundation events to ensure that the organization’s scholarship program continues to thrive.

Moral: Consider each opportunity because you may have changed your mind.

Exceptions: There are plenty of things I still won’t taste or do: eel and bungee jumping are two examples. The thought of visiting a skyscraper under construction or window washing above the first floor gives me goose bumps. And I still don’t care for grouse or liver.

What significant or insignificant changes of mind have you had and about what do you refuse to budge?

Service of Suspicion

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

I appreciate my credit card company for sending me a new card when it suspects that someone has violated its database putting in jeopardy the integrity of my account. This has happened twice in about a year. It rouses my suspicious nature causing all sorts of repercussions in the way I do-or refuse to do–business.

I won’t speak with so-called representatives from Verizon who call the office to tell me they can save me money. I get their phone number and call the Verizon number I have to confirm the legitimacy of the other number and while I’m on the line, to learn if there really is a new program that will save me money. I can’t be the only one. I’ve been getting letters from Verizon lately. [I suppose anyone can mail a fake letter…oh, my.]

E-Z pass and the IRS have sent me emails, or at least that’s what the emails claim. I won’t respond. In the former case, I called E-Z Pass to check if the query was real. In the latter, I passed along the e-mail to my CPA who said don’t touch it and don’t give my banking information to anybody over the Internet. Until there are no other options, I won’t send in my tax forms electronically.

I’m almost the only person I know who refuses to bank or pay bills by email. Everyone who does it says they are thrilled with the savings in time and postage and they boast how green they are, implying that I’m killing trees. They don’t tell me how long it takes them on the phone to right a typo when they’ve meant to pay $300 and instead, they’re in for $3,000 because they hit “send” too soon. I also want to know how long it’s taken them to find a phone number to call in the first place.

Doesn’t everyone get daily fake warnings from banks they’ve never engaged [or heard of], telling them that their online account has been compromised or is about to close? For someone who won’t bank this way, these scams act as yet another red flag. [I’ve written some banks and visited the customer service desks of others with proof of the improper use of their logos. The swindle business must be thriving because regardless, the same email fakes keep coming.]

Speaking of frauds, social networking counterfeits abound. Because I can’t keep up with all the networks I’ve already joined, when invited to connect with a new one, I always ask the sender what the benefits are. Lately, the penalty for joining without asking is embarrassment because the perpetrators scoop up all the names in the mark’s email address book and out goes the invitation to hundreds more. Obviously, if you haven’t heard or read about the network, take care, regardless of who invites you to join.

None of this is new. I follow the path of my ancestors when on the other end of the phone the voice of a so-called policeman asks me to support a fund. To this age-old sting I say, “Mail me something, please. I don’t give money over the phone.” Click.

What are you suspicious of these days? Has your electronic bill-paying always worked for you? Have you been caught by email fraud?

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