Inside GSK's CASSPER Ghostwriting Program

Last Updated Aug 21, 2009 9:21 AM EDT

A look inside GlaxoSmithKline's CASSPER ghostwriting brochure reveals that Paxil Product Management at GSK expected its drug sales reps to control the process, even with doctors who were clearly unfamiliar with existing published data on the drug.

BNET noted yesterday that GSK (formerly SmithKline Beecham in the U.K.) maintained the program to create ghostwritten medical journal articles about its antidepressant, Paxil.

A look inside the program brochure reveals that Paxil Product Management at GSK expected its drug sales reps to manage doctors as they engaged with CASSPER, even those physicians who are clearly unfamiliar with existing published data on the drug.

The document (cover pictured) shows that the intent of CASSPER was to flood the market with ghostwritten information. It states:

Paxil Product Management has budgeted for 50 articles for 2000.
A GSK rep told the AP:
The program was not heavily used and was discontinued a number of years ago.
This section indicates what was available in the program:

The document utilizes a number of hypothetical scenarios in which reps might tempt a doctor to get with the CASSPER program. In one, a doctor mentions that he's had some success with patients using Paxil:

Mention that SB is currently testing a program to encourage physicians to publish their experiences with PAXIL. Acknowledge the demands on the physician's time and explain that SB has contracted with an editorial staff to assist your physicians with any or all aspects of having their clinicial experiences using Paxil published.
"Scenario Two" indicates that a doctor may have done zero research prior to being pulled into CASSPER:
A physician asks whether there are any published data to support Paxil in specific indications or patient populations.

... provide the proper approved references or refer the physician to the Product Information department.

mention that SB is always interested in expanding the database of published studies on Paxil.

GSK used Complete Healthcare Communications to do the writing and editing:

Parts of the CASSPER program betray how it's never clear -- even to GSK -- who was supposed to be actually authoring the articles. On page 9:

Step 1: Prepare first draft. Working with the first draft of the manuscript, the editotrial staff at CHC ensures proper styling and creates figures and tables ... before the manuscript is sent to the author for review.
Download the CASSPER brochure here.