Sen. Grassley Versus Medical Ghost Writers

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 19, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, are you ready for this one? Is this just another instance of the big fat lie where conduct is so routine that the culprits don't even see that there's a problem?

We report, you decide. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley just wrote 10 letters to some of the top medical schools in the country. Why? It has to do with medical ghost writing. Senator Grassley went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, R - IOWA: Thank you. Glad to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I understand you've been busy writing to medical schools. Why are you writing to them?

GRASSLEY: Well, I'm writing to medical schools because we have a situation where there's ghost writing involved. And a lot of people use ghost writers, so I'm not complaining about ghost writing.

But let's say there's a pharmaceutical question that has an agenda. They hire somebody who to be a ghost writer to write an article that's favorable about their product. Then they need of course to have somebody with prestige behind it. So then they get a college professor to sign on...

VAN SUSTEREN: A medical school professor.

GRASSLEY: A medical school professor to sign on that they've written it. And the problem there is that we need transparency of what's behind this. So we write to the medical schools because they have high standards of scholarly activity, and we think that they're in a very good position to police this. They would want their professors to be very honest, that is there an agenda involved here.

If there's no agenda involved, there's nothing wrong with ghost writing. But where you have a pharmaceutical company with a product to sell and they have a ghost writer to write it, and then they need a medical school professor to sign on that it was actually that medical school professor, we need the universities to say whether or not there's any interest in it.

VAN SUSTEREN: You're much more polite than I am, because that sounded deceitful to me when someone is ghost writing. I know that plagiarism is when you steal someone -- I mean, you're doing it with someone's permission.

But if you have medical school professors who are signing off saying that they've written these treatises in an effort to convince the rest of us that some drug is good or has some effect or whatever, that is deceitful to me. Are they getting paid to sign off on these?

GRASSLEY: Well, the answer is yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't think that's deceitful?

GRASSLEY: Well, the point is that I believe in transparency. I mean, are they violating a law? No, they're not violating laws.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it's immoral in some ways. If you haven't done the work yourself and you're trying to pitch that a drug works and you haven't done the work and you've signed your name because you have prestige, that seems deceitful.

GRASSLEY: So you're going directly to the pharmaceutical company and directly to the ghost writer or to the professor.

The point is we need universities to be concerned about the relationship between their professor, the ghost writer, and the product. If there isn't a product here to be sold, I don't know whether -- you know, people use ghost writers, you know. I have a staff that writes speeches for me, as an example. I don't write every speech. I get up and give a lot of speeches without speechwriting, but sometimes you do.

But the point is here there's a product that's being sold, and people are hiding behind a college professor -- a medical school professor to give cover to the speechwriter and to their product.

VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe the answer should be if medical school profess or is lending his name as prestigious writes on it I was paid x numbers of dollars to sign this and I may agree with the substance of it or not, so just that we know we're not being gamed.

GRASSLEY: That fits into a transparency issue that I've been making for a long period of time with a lot of things where there's medical research involved where we -- many of these people have expertise that can be used by somebody, or there can be cooperation between the company and the professor, where expertise is needed.

But the point is that the public ought to know this, and particularly consumers ought to know it, particularly where there's an advocacy for a product that only has prestige because there's a university medical professor that has put their stamp of approval on it.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's like a political ad where you say at the end "My name is Senator Grassley and I support this," or that and it's an ad for me. Just to be honest, transparent.


VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, well, good luck. I hope you get some answers from these medical schools and I hope you get that transparency.

GRASSLEY: We always do get answers, and these people I write to know that Chuck Grassley won't give up till we get our answers.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think they probably do know that. Thank you, senator.

GRASSLEY: Thank you.


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