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1.  An overview of ethical frameworks in public health: can they be supportive in the evaluation of programs to prevent overweight? 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:638.
The prevention of overweight sometimes raises complex ethical questions. Ethical public health frameworks may be helpful in evaluating programs or policy for overweight prevention. We give an overview of the purpose, form and contents of such public health frameworks and investigate to which extent they are useful for evaluating programs to prevent overweight and/or obesity.
Our search for frameworks consisted of three steps. Firstly, we asked experts in the field of ethics and public health for the frameworks they were aware of. Secondly, we performed a search in Pubmed. Thirdly, we checked literature references in the articles on frameworks we found. In total, we thus found six ethical frameworks. We assessed the area on which the available ethical frameworks focus, the users they target at, the type of policy or intervention they propose to address, and their aim. Further, we looked at their structure and content, that is, tools for guiding the analytic process, the main ethical principles or values, possible criteria for dealing with ethical conflicts, and the concrete policy issues they are applied to.
All frameworks aim to support public health professionals or policymakers. Most of them provide a set of values or principles that serve as a standard for evaluating policy. Most frameworks articulate both the positive ethical foundations for public health and ethical constraints or concerns. Some frameworks offer analytic tools for guiding the evaluative process. Procedural guidelines and concrete criteria for solving important ethical conflicts in the particular area of the prevention of overweight or obesity are mostly lacking.
Public health ethical frameworks may be supportive in the evaluation of overweight prevention programs or policy, but seem to lack practical guidance to address ethical conflicts in this particular area.
PMCID: PMC2990740  PMID: 20969761
2.  Inclusion of Ethical Issues in Dementia Guidelines: A Thematic Text Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001498.
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) aim to improve professionalism in health care. However, current CPG development manuals fail to address how to include ethical issues in a systematic and transparent manner. The objective of this study was to assess the representation of ethical issues in general CPGs on dementia care.
Methods and Findings
To identify national CPGs on dementia care, five databases of guidelines were searched and national psychiatric associations were contacted in August 2011 and in June 2013. A framework for the assessment of the identified CPGs' ethical content was developed on the basis of a prior systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Thematic text analysis and a 4-point rating score were employed to assess how ethical issues were addressed in the identified CPGs. Twelve national CPGs were included. Thirty-one ethical issues in dementia care were identified by the prior systematic review. The proportion of these 31 ethical issues that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% to 77%, with a median of 49.5%. National guidelines differed substantially with respect to (a) which ethical issues were represented, (b) whether ethical recommendations were included, (c) whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and (d) to what extent the ethical issues were explained.
Ethical issues were inconsistently addressed in national dementia guidelines, with some guidelines including most and some including few ethical issues. Guidelines should address ethical issues and how to deal with them to help the medical profession understand how to approach care of patients with dementia, and for patients, their relatives, and the general public, all of whom might seek information and advice in national guidelines. There is a need for further research to specify how detailed ethical issues and their respective recommendations can and should be addressed in dementia guidelines.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
In the past, doctors tended to rely on their own experience to choose the best treatment for their patients. Faced with a patient with dementia (a brain disorder that affects short-term memory and the ability tocarry out normal daily activities), for example, a doctor would use his/her own experience to help decide whether the patient should remain at home or would be better cared for in a nursing home. Similarly, the doctor might have to decide whether antipsychotic drugs might be necessary to reduce behavioral or psychological symptoms such as restlessness or shouting. However, over the past two decades, numerous evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have been produced by governmental bodies and medical associations that aim to improve standards of clinical competence and professionalism in health care. During the development of each guideline, experts search the medical literature for the current evidence about the diagnosis and treatment of a disease, evaluate the quality of that evidence, and then make recommendations based on the best evidence available.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, CPG development manuals do not address how to include ethical issues in CPGs. A health-care professional is ethical if he/she behaves in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the medical profession. More specifically, medical professionalism is based on a set of binding ethical principles—respect for patient autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance (the “do no harm” principle), and justice. In particular, CPG development manuals do not address disease-specific ethical issues (DSEIs), clinical ethical situations that are relevant to the management of a specific disease. So, for example, a DSEI that arises in dementia care is the conflict between the ethical principles of non-malfeasance and patient autonomy (freedom-to-move-at-will). Thus, healthcare professionals may have to decide to physically restrain a patient with dementia to prevent the patient doing harm to him- or herself or to someone else. Given the lack of guidance on how to address ethical issues in CPG development manuals, in this thematic text analysis, the researchers assess the representation of ethical issues in CPGs on general dementia care. Thematic text analysis uses a framework for the assessment of qualitative data (information that is word-based rather than number-based) that involves pinpointing, examining, and recording patterns (themes) among the available data.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 12 national CPGs on dementia care by searching guideline databases and by contacting national psychiatric associations. They developed a framework for the assessment of the ethical content in these CPGs based on a previous systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Of the 31 DSEIs included by the researchers in their analysis, the proportion that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% (Switzerland) to 77% (USA); on average the CPGs explicitly addressed half of the DSEIs. Four DSEIs—adequate consideration of advanced directives in decision making, usage of GPS and other monitoring techniques, covert medication, and dealing with suicidal thinking—were not addressed in at least 11 of the CPGs. The inclusion of recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs ranged from 10% of DSEIs covered in the Swiss CPG to 71% covered in the US CPG. Overall, national guidelines differed substantially with respect to which ethical issues were included, whether ethical recommendations were included, whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and to what extent the ethical issues were clearly explained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that national CPGs on dementia care already address clinical ethical issues but that the extent to which the spectrum of DSEIs is considered varies widely within and between CPGs. They also indicate that recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs often lack the evidence that health-care professionals use to justify their clinical decisions. The researchers suggest that this situation can and should be improved, although more research is needed to determine how ethical issues and recommendations should be addressed in dementia guidelines. A more systematic and transparent inclusion of DSEIs in CPGs for dementia (and for other conditions) would further support the concept of medical professionalism as a core element of CPGs, note the researchers, but is also important for patients and their relatives who might turn to national CPGs for information and guidance at a stressful time of life.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia contains a page on clinical practice guidelines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US National Guideline Clearinghouse provides information on national guidelines, including CPGs for dementia
The Guidelines International Network promotes the systematic development and application of clinical practice guidelines
The American Medical Association provides information about medical ethics; the British Medical Association provides information on all aspects of ethics and includes an essential tool kit that introduces common ethical problems and practical ways to deal with them
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about dementia, including a personal story about dealing with dementia
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about dementia and about Alzheimers disease, a specific type of dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics provides the report Dementia: ethical issues and additional information on the public consultation on ethical issues in dementia care
PMCID: PMC3742442  PMID: 23966839
3.  How Many Principles for Public Health Ethics? 
General moral (ethical) principles play a prominent role in certain methods of moral reasoning and ethical decision-making in bioethics and public health. Examples include the principles of respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. Some accounts of ethics in public health have pointed to additional principles related to social and environmental concerns, such as the precautionary principle and principles of solidarity or social cohesion. This article provides an overview of principle-based methods of moral reasoning as they apply to public health ethics including a summary of advantages and disadvantages of methods of moral reasoning that rely upon general principles of moral reasoning. Drawing upon the literature on public health ethics, examples are provided of additional principles, obligations, and rules that may be useful for analyzing complex ethical issues in public health. A framework is outlined that takes into consideration the interplay of ethical principles and rules at individual, community, national, and global levels. Concepts such as the precautionary principle and solidarity are shown to be useful to public health ethics to the extent that they can be shown to provide worthwhile guidance and information above and beyond principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice, and the clusters of rules and maxims that are linked to these moral principles. Future directions likely to be productive include further work on areas of public health ethics such as public trust, community empowerment, the rights of individuals who are targeted (or not targeted) by public health interventions, individual and community resilience and wellbeing, and further clarification of principles, obligations, and rules in public health disciplines such as environmental science, prevention and control of chronic and infectious diseases, genomics, and global health.
PMCID: PMC2804997  PMID: 20072707
4.  Exploring synergies between human rights and public health ethics: A whole greater than the sum of its parts 
The fields of human rights and public health ethics are each concerned with promoting health and elucidating norms for action. To date, however, little has been written about the contribution that these two justificatory frameworks can make together. This article explores how a combined approach may make a more comprehensive contribution to resolving normative health issues and to advancing a normative framework for global health action than either approach made alone. We explore this synergy by first providing overviews of public health ethics and of international human rights law relevant to health and, second, by articulating complementarities between human rights and public health ethics.
We argue that public health ethics can contribute to human rights by: (a) reinforcing the normative claims of international human rights law, (b) strengthening advocacy for human rights, and (c) bridging the divide between public health practitioners and human rights advocates in certain contemporary health domains. We then discuss how human rights can contribute to public health ethics by contributing to discourses on the determinants of health through: (a) definitions of the right to health and the notion of the indivisibility of rights, (b) emphasis on the duties of states to progressively realize the health of citizens, and (c) recognition of the protection of human rights as itself a determinant of health. We also discuss the role that human rights can play for the emergent field of public health ethics by refocusing attention on the health and illness on marginalized individuals and populations.
Actors within the fields of public health, ethics and human rights can gain analytic tools by embracing the untapped potential for collaboration inherent in such a combined approach.
PMCID: PMC2268657  PMID: 18237409
5.  Public Health Ethics Related Training for Public Health Workforce: An Emerging Need in the United States 
Ethics is a discipline, which primarily deals with what is moral and immoral behavior. Public Health Ethics is translation of ethical theories and concepts into practice to address complex multidimensional public health problems. The primary purpose of this paper was to conduct a narrative literature review-addressing role of ethics in developing curriculum in programs and schools of public health, ethics-related instruction in schools and programs of public health and the role of ethics in developing a competent public health workforce.
An open search of various health databases including Google scholar and Ebscohost yielded 15 articles related to use of ethics in public health practice or public health training and the salient features were reported.
Results indicated a variable amount of ethics’ related training in schools and programs of public health along with public health practitioner training across the nation. Bioethics, medical ethics and public health ethics were found to be subspecialties’ needing separate ethical frameworks to guide decision making.
Ethics based curricular and non-curricular training for emerging public health professionals from schools and programs of public health in the United States is extremely essential. In the current age of public health challenges faced in the United States and globally, to have an ethically untrained public health force is arguably, immoral and unethical and jeopardizes population health. There is an urgent need to develop innovative ethic based curriculums in academia as well as finding effective means to translate these curricular competencies into public health practice.
PMCID: PMC3481609  PMID: 23113159
Ethics; Public health Ethics; Competencies; Public health workforce; USA
6.  Ethical issues in epidemiologic research and public health practice 
A rich and growing body of literature has emerged on ethics in epidemiologic research and public health practice. Recent articles have included conceptual frameworks of public health ethics and overviews of historical developments in the field. Several important topics in public health ethics have also been highlighted. Attention to ethical issues can facilitate the effective planning, implementation, and growth of a variety of public health programs and research activities. Public health ethics is consistent with the prevention orientation of public health. Ethical concerns can be anticipated or identified early and effectively addressed through careful analysis and consultation.
PMCID: PMC1594564  PMID: 17018147
7.  Interactions between Non-Physician Clinicians and Industry: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001561.
In a systematic review of studies of interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry, Quinn Grundy and colleagues found that many of the issues identified for physicians' industry interactions exist for non-physician clinicians.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
With increasing restrictions placed on physician–industry interactions, industry marketing may target other health professionals. Recent health policy developments confer even greater importance on the decision making of non-physician clinicians. The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the types and implications of non-physician clinician–industry interactions in clinical practice.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE and Web of Science from January 1, 1946, through June 24, 2013, according to PRISMA guidelines. Non-physician clinicians eligible for inclusion were: Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, Physician Assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, and physical or occupational therapists; trainee samples were excluded. Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria. Data were synthesized qualitatively into eight outcome domains: nature and frequency of industry interactions; attitudes toward industry; perceived ethical acceptability of interactions; perceived marketing influence; perceived reliability of industry information; preparation for industry interactions; reactions to industry relations policy; and management of industry interactions. Non-physician clinicians reported interacting with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Clinicians across disciplines met with pharmaceutical representatives regularly and relied on them for practice information. Clinicians frequently received industry “information,” attended sponsored “education,” and acted as distributors for similar materials targeted at patients. Clinicians generally regarded this as an ethical use of industry resources, and felt they could detect “promotion” while benefiting from industry “information.” Free samples were among the most approved and common ways that clinicians interacted with industry. Included studies were observational and of varying methodological rigor; thus, these findings may not be generalizable. This review is, however, the first to our knowledge to provide a descriptive analysis of this literature.
Non-physician clinicians' generally positive attitudes toward industry interactions, despite their recognition of issues related to bias, suggest that industry interactions are normalized in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. Industry relations policy should address all disciplines and be implemented consistently in order to mitigate conflicts of interest and address such interactions' potential to affect patient care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Making and selling health care goods (including drugs and devices) and services is big business. To maximize the profits they make for their shareholders, companies involved in health care build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, organizing educational meetings, providing samples of their products, giving gifts, and holding sponsored events. These relationships help to keep physicians informed about new developments in health care but also create the potential for causing harm to patients and health care systems. These relationships may, for example, result in increased prescription rates of new, heavily marketed medications, which are often more expensive than their generic counterparts (similar unbranded drugs) and that are more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than long-established drugs. They may also affect the provision of health care services. Industry is providing an increasingly large proportion of routine health care services in many countries, so relationships built up with physicians have the potential to influence the commissioning of the services that are central to the treatment and well-being of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
As a result of concerns about the tension between industry's need to make profits and the ethics underlying professional practice, restrictions are increasingly being placed on physician–industry interactions. In the US, for example, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act now requires US manufacturers of drugs, devices, and medical supplies that participate in federal health care programs to disclose all payments and gifts made to physicians and teaching hospitals. However, other health professionals, including those with authority to prescribe drugs such as pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and nurse practitioners are not covered by this legislation or by similar legislation in other settings, even though the restructuring of health care to prioritize primary care and multidisciplinary care models means that “non-physician clinicians” are becoming more numerous and more involved in decision-making and medication management. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers examine the nature and implications of the interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 15 published studies that examined interactions between non-physician clinicians (Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, midwives, pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and dieticians) and industry (corporations that produce health care goods and services). They extracted the data from 16 publications (representing 15 different studies) and synthesized them qualitatively (combined the data and reached word-based, rather than numerical, conclusions) into eight outcome domains, including the nature and frequency of interactions, non-physician clinicians' attitudes toward industry, and the perceived ethical acceptability of interactions. In the research the authors identified, non-physician clinicians reported frequent interactions with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Most non-physician clinicians met industry representatives regularly, received gifts and samples, and attended educational events or received educational materials (some of which they distributed to patients). In these studies, non-physician clinicians generally regarded these interactions positively and felt they were an ethical and appropriate use of industry resources. Only a minority of non-physician clinicians felt that marketing influenced their own practice, although a larger percentage felt that their colleagues would be influenced. A sizeable proportion of non-physician clinicians questioned the reliability of industry information, but most were confident that they could detect biased information and therefore rated this information as reliable, valuable, or useful.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings suggest that non-physician clinicians generally have positive attitudes toward industry interactions but recognize issues related to bias and conflict of interest. Because these findings are based on a small number of studies, most of which were undertaken in the US, they may not be generalizable to other countries. Moreover, they provide no quantitative assessment of the interaction between non-physician clinicians and industry and no information about whether industry interactions affect patient care outcomes. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that industry interactions are normalized (seen as standard) in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. This normalization creates the potential for serious risks to patients and health care systems. The researchers suggest that it may be unrealistic to expect that non-physician clinicians can be taught individually how to interact with industry ethically or how to detect and avert bias, particularly given the ubiquitous nature of marketing and promotional materials. Instead, they suggest, the environment in which non-physician clinicians practice should be structured to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of interactions with industry.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by James S. Yeh and Aaron S. Kesselheim
The American Medical Association provides guidance for physicians on interactions with pharmaceutical industry representatives, information about the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and a toolkit for preparing Physician Payments Sunshine Act reports
The International Council of Nurses provides some guidance on industry interactions in its position statement on nurse-industry relations
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice website, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that schools of medicine and pharmacy can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion.
The Institute of Medicine's Report on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The University of California, San Francisco, Office of Continuing Medical Education offers a course called Marketing of Medicines
PMCID: PMC3841103  PMID: 24302892
8.  Prevention of relapsing backache 
The condition of non-specific back pain is characterized by high prevalence, non satisfactory therapeutic options and severe socioeconomic consequences. Therefore prevention seems an attractive option to downsize the problem. However, the construction of effective preventive measures is complicated by the obscure aetiology of the condition, the multidimensionality of risk and prognostic factors (bio psychosocial model!) and the variability of its natural as well as clinical course. This led to the development of a wide variety of preventive measures: e. g. exercise programs, educational measures (including back school), ergonomic modification of the work environment, mechanical supports (e. g. back belts) as well as multidisciplinary interventions. For two reasons the workplace seems to be a suitable setting for prevention. First, because a number of strong risk factors are associated with working conditions and second, because it allows addressing a large proportion of the adult population. Against this background the assessment at hand sets out to answer the following questions:
What is the amount and methodological quality of the available scientific literature on the effectiveness of back pain prevention in the workplace environment? What are effective measures for the prevention of back pain and its consequences in the workplace environment and how effective are they? Is back pain prevention in the workplace environment cost-effective? Is there a need for more research? As primary outcomes for effectiveness the assessment will focus on time lost from work and the frequency and duration of episodes with back pain. The preventive measures assessed belong to the following categories: exercise programs, educational and information measures, multidimensional interventions, back belts, lifting teams and ergonomic interventions.
The assessment is based on a systematic review of the published literature according to the methodological requirements of DAHTA. Proceedings of the electronic literature searches are documented in the appendix. In addition references of review articles were searched. Methodological quality of publications (systematic reviews, HTA reports) was assessed using the checklists developed by the German Scientific Working Group for Technology Assessment in Health Care (GSWGTAHC) or with the Jadad-Score (controlled trials) respectively. Due to the large number of relevant publications the assessment is mainly based on data reported by systematic reviews and supplemented by the results of newer trials. A separate economic assessment was not performed because of the low amount of available data. An assessment of ethical, legal and social impact was omitted due to resource constraints.
For preventive interventions based on exercise programs most of the analysed trials demonstrate some effectiveness. Due to the heterogeneity of the programs it is not possible to conclude whether positive effects are associated with a special type, duration or intensity of exercise. For purely educational measures or information strategies applied in a workplace setting the available trials were not able to demonstrate effectiveness. Back school programs, which in addition to theoretical instructions offer intensive exercising may in the short term, be successful in reducing the incidence of new episodes of back pain. Some trials in high risk groups demonstrate effectiveness of multidimensional interventions on time lost from work. These programs include education and exercise as well as cognitive behavioural interventions to change pain perception. The assessment of the benefits of back belts for the prevention of back pain is based on results of high quality efficacy as well as effectiveness trials. Their results imply for the otherwise healthy working population no protective effect of back belts on time lost from work due to back pain, on the incidence of painful episodes or on days with impairment by back pain. So far there are no data from controlled trials that demonstrate the effectiveness of "lifting teams" in nursing care to prevent back pain or its consequences. However, results from uncontrolled pilot studies indicate a potential for effectiveness. Among "ergonomic interventions" three different approaches have to be distinguished: interventions addressing changes of the workplace setting, interventions addressing the individual's behaviour and combined interventions. Studies evaluating the effectiveness of setting interventions (modification of the physical workplace environment, changes of production processes, organisational changes) yield no dependable results. This conclusion is not based on indifferent trial results but rather on the lack of methodologically sound studies. Results from studies on ergonomic interventions addressing the individual confirm the conclusions drawn for exercise and educational measures. The most marked results are found in trials that examine the effectiveness of combined interventions in high risk groups and contain a strong participatory component. Hardly any of the trials studying the effects of ergonomic interventions satisfied methodological quality criteria that are accepted standard for clinical or public health intervention studies.
There were no data allowing firm conclusions on the cost-effectiveness of interventions from any of the categories.
The significance of the results of the assessment at hand is strongly limited by the comprehensiveness of the questions addressed. Reviewing the literature on the basis of (even systematic) review articles impairs the differentiated examination of the role of target groups, program contents, application and duration, effect sizes and context factors. While the methodological quality of the review articles is quite high, the quality of individual trials (even those included in the review papers) is highly variable. While most trials examining preventive interventions addressed at individuals satisfy at least some methodological requirements many studies dealing with setting interventions do not.
In conclusion, sound scientific evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of back pain prevention in the workplace environment is still quite scarce. Further research should include:
The development of interventions guided by the bio psychosocial model of back pain aetiology that combines individual prevention as well as measures addressing the workplace environment.The integration of results from basic ergonomic research into prevention concepts and the conduct of trials focussing outcomes with relevance to the workplace setting. The conduct of qualitative studies to identify factors that impair the effectiveness of prevention programs (e. g. motivation, compliance, people skills).The integration of cost-effectiveness evaluations into all interventional studies.
PMCID: PMC3011361  PMID: 21289963
9.  A Research Agenda for Humanitarian Health Ethics 
PLoS Currents  2014;6:ecurrents.dis.8b3c24217d80f3975618fc9d9228a144.
This paper maps key research questions for humanitarian health ethics: the ethical dimensions of healthcare provision and public health activities during international responses to situations of humanitarian crisis. Development of this research agenda was initiated at the Humanitarian Health Ethics Forum (HHE Forum) convened in Hamilton, Canada in November 2012. The HHE Forum identified priority avenues for advancing policy and practice for ethics in humanitarian health action. The main topic areas examined were: experiences and perceptions of humanitarian health ethics; training and professional development initiatives for humanitarian health ethics; ethics support for humanitarian health workers; impact of policies and project structures on humanitarian health ethics; and theoretical frameworks and ethics lenses. Key research questions for each topic area are presented, as well as proposed strategies for advancing this research agenda. Pursuing the research agenda will help strengthen the ethical foundations of humanitarian health action.
PMCID: PMC4191921
10.  Ghost Authorship in Industry-Initiated Randomised Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e19.
Ghost authorship, the failure to name, as an author, an individual who has made substantial contributions to an article, may result in lack of accountability. The prevalence and nature of ghost authorship in industry-initiated randomised trials is not known.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cohort study comparing protocols and corresponding publications for industry-initiated trials approved by the Scientific-Ethical Committees for Copenhagen and Frederiksberg in 1994–1995. We defined ghost authorship as present if individuals who wrote the trial protocol, performed the statistical analyses, or wrote the manuscript, were not listed as authors of the publication, or as members of a study group or writing committee, or in an acknowledgment. We identified 44 industry-initiated trials. We did not find any trial protocol or publication that stated explicitly that the clinical study report or the manuscript was to be written or was written by the clinical investigators, and none of the protocols stated that clinical investigators were to be involved with data analysis. We found evidence of ghost authorship for 33 trials (75%; 95% confidence interval 60%–87%). The prevalence of ghost authorship was increased to 91% (40 of 44 articles; 95% confidence interval 78%–98%) when we included cases where a person qualifying for authorship was acknowledged rather than appearing as an author. In 31 trials, the ghost authors we identified were statisticians. It is likely that we have overlooked some ghost authors, as we had very limited information to identify the possible omission of other individuals who would have qualified as authors.
Ghost authorship in industry-initiated trials is very common. Its prevalence could be considerably reduced, and transparency improved, if existing guidelines were followed, and if protocols were publicly available.
Of 44 industry-initiated trials, there was evidence of ghost authorship in 33, increasing to 40 when a person qualifying for authorship was acknowledged rather than appearing as an author.
Editors' Summary
Original scientific findings are usually published in the form of a “paper”, whether it is actually distributed on paper, or circulated via the internet, as this one is. Papers are normally prepared by a group of researchers who did the research and are then listed at the top of the article. These authors therefore take responsibility for the integrity of the results and interpretation of them. However, many people are worried that sometimes the author list on the paper does not tell the true story of who was involved. In particular, for clinical research, case histories and previous research has suggested that “ghost authorship” is commonplace. Ghost authors are people who were involved in some way in the research study, or writing the paper, but who have been left off the final author list. This might happen because the study “looks” more credible if the true authors (for example, company employees or freelance medical writers) are not revealed. This practice might hide competing interests that readers should be aware of, and has therefore been condemned by academics, groups of editors, and some pharmaceutical companies.
Why Was This Study Done?
This group of researchers wanted to get an idea of how often ghost authorship happened in medical research done by companies. Previous studies looking into this used surveys, whereby the researchers would write to one author on each of a group of papers to ask whether anyone else had been involved in the work but who was not listed on the paper. These sorts of studies typically underestimate the rate of ghost authorship, because the main author might not want to admit what had been going on. However, the researchers here managed to get access to trial protocols (documents setting out the plans for future research studies), which gave them a way to investigate ghost authorship.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to investigate the frequency and type of ghost authorship, these researchers identified every trial which was approved between 1994 and 1995 by the ethics committees of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg in Denmark. Then they winnowed this group down to include only the trials that were sponsored by industry (pharmaceutical companies and others), and only those trials that were finished and published. The protocols for each trial were obtained from the ethics committees and the researchers then matched up each protocol with its corresponding paper. Then, they compared names which appeared in the protocol against names appearing on the eventual paper, either on the author list or acknowledged elsewhere in the paper as being involved. The researchers ended up studying 44 trials. For 31 of these (75% of them) they found some evidence of ghost authorship, in that people were identified as having written the protocol or who had been involved in doing statistical analyses or writing the manuscript, but did not end up listed in the manuscript. If the definition of authorship was made narrower, and “ghost authorship” included people qualifying for authorship who were mentioned in the acknowledgements but not the author list, the researchers' estimate went up to 91%, that is 40 of the 44 trials. For most of the trials with missing authors, the ghost was a statistician (the person who analyzes the trial data).
What Do These Findings Mean?
In this study, the researchers found that ghost authorship was very common in papers published in medical journals (this study covered a broad range of peer-reviewed journals in many medical disciplines). The method used in this paper seems more reliable than using surveys to work out how often ghost authorship happens. The researchers aimed to define authorship using the policies set out by a group called the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), and the findings here suggest that the ICMJE's standards for authorship are very often ignored. This means that people who read the published paper cannot always accurately judge or trust the information presented within it, and competing interests may be hidden. The researchers here suggest that protocols should be made publicly available so that everyone can see what trials are planned and who is involved in conducting them. The findings also suggest that journals should not only list the authors of each paper but describe what each author has done, so that the published information accurately reflects what has been carried out.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Read the Perspective by Liz Wager, which discusses these findings in more depth
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) is a group of general medical journal editors who have produced general guidelines for biomedical manuscripts; their definition of authorship is also described
The Committee on Publication Ethics is a forum for editors of peer-reviewed journals to discuss issues related to the integrity of the scientific record; the Web site lists anonymized problems and the committee's advice, not just regarding authorship, but other types of problems as well
Good Publication Practice for Pharmaceutical Companies outlines common standards for publication of industry-sponsored medical research, and some pharmaceutical companies have agreed to these
PMCID: PMC1769411  PMID: 17227134
11.  An ethical framework for cardiac report cards: a qualitative study 
BMC Medical Ethics  2005;6:3.
The recent proliferation of health care report cards, especially in cardiac care, has occurred in the absence of an ethical framework to guide in their development and implementation. An ethical framework is a consistent and comprehensive theoretical foundation in ethics, and is formed by integrating ethical theories, relevant literature, and other critical information (such as the views of stakeholders). An ethical framework in the context of cardiac care provides guidance for developing cardiac report cards (CRCs) that are relevant and legitimate to all stakeholders. The purpose of this study is to develop an ethical framework for CRCs.
Delphi technique – 13 panelists: 2 administrators, 2 cardiac nurses, 5 cardiac patients, 2 cardiologists, 1 member of the media, and 1 outcomes researcher. Panelists' views regarding the ethics of CRCs were analyzed and organized into themes.
We have organized panelists' views into ten principles that emerged from the data: 1) improving quality of care, 2) informed understanding, 3) public accountability, 4) transparency, 5) equity, 6) access to information 7) quality of information, 8) multi-stakeholder collaboration, 9) legitimacy, and 10) evaluation and continuous quality improvement.
We have developed a framework to guide the development and dissemination of CRCs. This ethical framework can provide necessary guidance for those generating CRCs and may help them avoid a number of difficult issues associated with existing ones.
PMCID: PMC1084248  PMID: 15794818
12.  How can developing countries harness biotechnology to improve health? 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:346.
The benefits of genomics and biotechnology are concentrated primarily in the industrialized world, while their potential to combat neglected diseases in the developing world has been largely untapped. Without building developing world biotechnology capacity to address local health needs, this disparity will only intensify. To assess the potential of genomics to address health needs in the developing world, the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, along with local partners, organized five courses on Genomics and Public Health Policy in the developing world. The overall objective of the courses was to collectively explore how to best harness genomics to improve health in each region. This article presents and analyzes the recommendations from all five courses.
In this paper we analyze recommendations from 232 developing world experts from 58 countries who sought to answer how best to harness biotechnology to improve health in their regions. We divide their recommendations into four categories: science; finance; ethics, society and culture; and politics.
The Courses' recommendations can be summarized across the four categories listed above:
- Collaborate through national, regional, and international networks
- Survey and build capacity based on proven models through education, training, and needs assessments
- Develop regulatory and intellectual property frameworks for commercialization of biotechnology
- Enhance funding and affordability of biotechnology
- Improve the academic-industry interface and the role of small and medium enterprise
Ethics, Society, Culture
- Develop public engagement strategies to inform and educate the public about developments in genomics and biotechnology
- Develop capacity to address ethical, social and cultural issues
- Improve accessibility and equity
- Strengthen understanding, leadership and support at the political level for biotechnology
- Develop policies outlining national biotechnology strategy
These recommendations provide guidance for all those interested in supporting science, technology, and innovation to improve health in the developing world. Applying these recommendations broadly across sectors and regions will empower developing countries themselves to harness the benefits of biotechnology and genomics for billions who have long been excluded.
PMCID: PMC2238767  PMID: 18053180
13.  A scoping study to identify opportunities to advance the ethical implementation and scale-up of HIV treatment as prevention: priorities for empirical research 
BMC Medical Ethics  2014;15:54.
Despite the evidence showing the promise of HIV treatment as prevention (TasP) in reducing HIV incidence, a variety of ethical questions surrounding the implementation and “scaling up” of TasP have been articulated by a variety of stakeholders including scientists, community activists and government officials. Given the high profile and potential promise of TasP in combatting the global HIV epidemic, an explicit and transparent research priority-setting process is critical to inform ongoing ethical discussions pertaining to TasP.
We drew on the Arksey and O’Malley framework for conducting scoping review studies as well as systematic approaches to identifying empirical and theoretical gaps within ethical discussions pertaining to population-level intervention implementation and scale up. We searched the health science database PubMed to identify relevant peer-reviewed articles on ethical and implementation issues pertaining to TasP. We included English language articles that were published after 2009 (i.e., after the emergence of causal evidence within this field) by using search terms related to TasP. Given the tendency for much of the criticism and support of TasP to occur outside the peer-reviewed literature, we also included grey literature in order to provide a more exhaustive representation of how the ethical discussions pertaining to TasP have and are currently taking place. To identify the grey literature, we systematically searched a set of search engines, databases, and related webpages for keywords pertaining to TasP.
Three dominant themes emerged in our analysis with respect to the ethical questions pertaining to TasP implementation and scale-up: (a) balancing individual- and population-level interests; (b) power relations within clinical practice and competing resource demands within health care systems; (c) effectiveness considerations and socio-structural contexts of HIV treatment experiences within broader implementation contexts.
Ongoing research and normative deliberation is required in order to successfully and ethically scale-up TasP within the continuum of HIV care models. Based on the results of this scoping review, we identify several ethical and implementation dimensions that hold promise for informing the process of scaling up TasP and that could benefit from new research.
PMCID: PMC4086269  PMID: 24994501
14.  Evidence-based ethics – What it should be and what it shouldn't 
BMC Medical Ethics  2008;9:16.
The concept of evidence-based medicine has strongly influenced the appraisal and application of empirical information in health care decision-making. One principal characteristic of this concept is the distinction between "evidence" in the sense of high-quality empirical information on the one hand and rather low-quality empirical information on the other hand. In the last 5 to 10 years an increasing number of articles published in international journals have made use of the term "evidence-based ethics", making a systematic analysis and explication of the term and its applicability in ethics important.
In this article four descriptive and two normative characteristics of the general concept "evidence-based" are presented and explained systematically. These characteristics are to then serve as a framework for assessing the methodological and practical challenges of evidence-based ethics as a developing methodology. The superiority of evidence in contrast to other empirical information has several normative implications such as the legitimization of decisions in medicine and ethics. This implicit normativity poses ethical concerns if there is no formal consent on which sort of empirical information deserves the label "evidence" and which does not. In empirical ethics, which relies primarily on interview research and other methods from the social sciences, we still lack gold standards for assessing the quality of study designs and appraising their findings.
The use of the term "evidence-based ethics" should be discouraged, unless there is enough consensus on how to differentiate between high- and low-quality information produced by empirical ethics. In the meantime, whenever empirical information plays a role, the process of ethical decision-making should make use of systematic reviews of empirical studies that involve a critical appraisal and comparative discussion of data.
PMCID: PMC2576300  PMID: 18937838
15.  The Intersection of Youth, Technology, and New Media with Sexual Health: Moving the Research Agenda Forward 
Youth bear a significant proportion of the sexually transmitted infection (STI)/HIV burden in the United States, CDC, 2010. Available at:, with rates of some STIs increasing among youth of color and young men who have sex with men. Technology use among youth also continues to increase. The ubiquitous nature of technology use among youth offers a multitude of opportunities to promote youth sexual health and to prevent disease transmission and unplanned pregnancies. To date, there have been a handful of peer-reviewed articles published regarding the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of using new media and technology for sexual health promotion. Despite recent publications, there is still a real need for high-quality research to understand the impact of different forms of new media use on youth sexual health, as well as to determine the best ways to harness technology to promote safer sex behaviors, both for the short- and long-term. In March 2011, Internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the Ford Foundation convened a meeting of scientists and technology experts to discuss how to effectively conduct sexual health promotion research using new forms of technology. The meeting was structured to cover the following topic areas: (i) research–community partnerships, (ii) institutional review board and ethical issues, (iii) theoretical frameworks, (iv) intervention approaches, (v) recruitment methods, and (vi) assessing impact. Presentations included case studies of successful technology-based HIV/STI prevention interventions for youth, which led to broader discussions on how to conduct research in this area. This article summarizes the meeting proceedings, highlights key points, offers recommendations, and outlines future directions.
PMCID: PMC4330086  PMID: 22921129
Sexuality; Reproductive health; Adolescents; Young adults; Social networking sites; Short message service
16.  Anatomy of the Epidemiological Literature on the 2003 SARS Outbreaks in Hong Kong and Toronto: A Time-Stratified Review 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000272.
Weijia Xing and colleagues reviewed the published epidemiological literature on SARS and show that less than a quarter of papers were published during the epidemic itself, suggesting that the research published lagged substantially behind the need for it.
Outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases, especially those of a global nature, require rapid epidemiological analysis and information dissemination. The final products of those activities usually comprise internal memoranda and briefs within public health authorities and original research published in peer-reviewed journals. Using the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic as an example, we conducted a comprehensive time-stratified review of the published literature to describe the different types of epidemiological outputs.
Methods and Findings
We identified and analyzed all published articles on the epidemiology of the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong or Toronto. The analysis was stratified by study design, research domain, data collection, and analytical technique. We compared the SARS-case and matched-control non-SARS articles published according to the timeline of submission, acceptance, and publication. The impact factors of the publishing journals were examined according to the time of publication of SARS articles, and the numbers of citations received by SARS-case and matched-control articles submitted during and after the epidemic were compared. Descriptive, analytical, theoretical, and experimental epidemiology concerned, respectively, 54%, 30%, 11%, and 6% of the studies. Only 22% of the studies were submitted, 8% accepted, and 7% published during the epidemic. The submission-to-acceptance and acceptance-to-publication intervals of the SARS articles submitted during the epidemic period were significantly shorter than the corresponding intervals of matched-control non-SARS articles published in the same journal issues (p<0.001 and p<0.01, respectively). The differences of median submission-to-acceptance intervals and median acceptance-to-publication intervals between SARS articles and their corresponding control articles were 106.5 d (95% confidence interval [CI] 55.0–140.1) and 63.5 d (95% CI 18.0–94.1), respectively. The median numbers of citations of the SARS articles submitted during the epidemic and over the 2 y thereafter were 17 (interquartile range [IQR] 8.0–52.0) and 8 (IQR 3.2–21.8), respectively, significantly higher than the median numbers of control article citations (15, IQR 8.5–16.5, p<0.05, and 7, IQR 3.0–12.0, p<0.01, respectively).
A majority of the epidemiological articles on SARS were submitted after the epidemic had ended, although the corresponding studies had relevance to public health authorities during the epidemic. To minimize the lag between research and the exigency of public health practice in the future, researchers should consider adopting common, predefined protocols and ready-to-use instruments to improve timeliness, and thus, relevance, in addition to standardizing comparability across studies. To facilitate information dissemination, journal managers should reengineer their fast-track channels, which should be adapted to the purpose of an emerging outbreak, taking into account the requirement of high standards of quality for scientific journals and competition with other online resources.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every now and then, a new infectious disease appears in a human population or an old disease becomes much more common or more geographically widespread. Recently, several such “emerging infectious diseases” have become major public health problems. For example, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) have all emerged in the past three decades and spread rapidly round the world. When an outbreak (epidemic) of an emerging infectious disease occurs, epidemiologists (scientists who study the causes, distribution, and control of diseases in populations) swing into action, collecting and analyzing data on the new threat to human health. Epidemiological studies are rapidly launched to identify the causative agent of the new disease, to investigate how the disease spreads, to define diagnostic criteria for the disease, to evaluate potential treatments, and to devise ways to control the disease's spread. Public health officials then use the results of these studies to bring the epidemic under control.
Why Was This Study Done?
Clearly, epidemics of emerging infectious diseases can only be controlled rapidly and effectively if the results of epidemiological studies are made widely available in a timely manner. Public health bulletins (for example, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the US Centers from Disease Control and Prevention) are an important way of disseminating information as is the publication of original research in peer-reviewed academic journals. But how timely is this second dissemination route? Submission, peer-review, revision, re-review, acceptance, and publication of a piece of academic research can be a long process, the speed of which is affected by the responses of both authors and journals. In this study, the researchers analyze how the results of academic epidemiological research are submitted and published in journals during and after an emerging infectious disease epidemic using the 2003 SARS epidemic as an example. The first case of SARS was identified in Asia in February 2003 and rapidly spread around the world. 8,098 people became ill with SARS and 774 died before the epidemic was halted in July 2003.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified more than 300 journal articles covering epidemiological research into the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, China, and Toronto, Canada (two cities strongly affected by the epidemic) that were published online or in print between January 1, 2003 and July 31, 2007. The researchers' analysis of these articles shows that more than half them were descriptive epidemiological studies, investigations that focused on describing the distribution of SARS; a third were analytical epidemiological studies that tried to discover the cause of SARS. Overall, 22% of the journal articles were submitted for publication during the epidemic. Only 8% of the articles were accepted for publication and only 7% were actually published during the epidemic. The median (average) submission-to-acceptance and acceptance-to-publication intervals for SARS articles submitted during the epidemic were 55 and 77.5 days, respectively, much shorter intervals than those for non-SARS articles published in the same journal issues. After the epidemic was over, the submission-to-acceptance and acceptance-to-publication intervals for SARS articles was similar to that of non-SARS articles.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, although the academic response to the SARS epidemic was rapid, most articles on the epidemiology of SARS were published after the epidemic was over even though SARS was a major threat to public health. Possible reasons for this publication delay include the time taken by authors to prepare and undertake their studies, to write and submit their papers, and, possibly, their tendency to first submit their results to high profile journals. The time then taken by journals to review the studies, make decisions about publication, and complete the publication process might also have delayed matters. To minimize future delays in the publication of epidemiological research on emerging infectious diseases, epidemiologists could adopt common, predefined protocols and ready-to-use instruments, which would improve timeliness and ensure comparability across studies, suggest the researchers. Journals, in turn, could improve their fast-track procedures and could consider setting up online sections that could be activated when an emerging infectious disease outbreak occurred. Finally, journals could consider altering their review system to speed up the publication process provided the quality of the final published articles was not compromised.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on emerging infectious diseases
The US Centers for Control and Prevention of Diseases also provides information about emerging infectious diseases, including links to other resources, and information on SARS
Wikipedia has a page on epidemiology (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The World Health Organization has information on SARS (in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2864302  PMID: 20454570
17.  Putting Public Health Ethics into Practice: A Systematic Framework 
It is widely acknowledged that public health practice raises ethical issues that require a different approach than traditional biomedical ethics. Several frameworks for public health ethics (PHE) have been proposed; however, none of them provides a practice-oriented combination of the two necessary components: (1) a set of normative criteria based on an explicit ethical justification and (2) a structured methodological approach for applying the resulting normative criteria to concrete public health (PH) issues. Building on prior work in the field and integrating valuable elements of other approaches to PHE, we present a systematic ethical framework that shall guide professionals in planning, conducting, and evaluating PH interventions. Based on a coherentist model of ethical justification, the proposed framework contains (1) an explicit normative foundation with five substantive criteria and seven procedural conditions to guarantee a fair decision process, and (2) a six-step methodological approach for applying the criteria and conditions to the practice of PH and health policy. The framework explicitly ties together ethical analysis and empirical evidence, thus striving for evidence-based PHE. It can provide normative guidance to those who analyze the ethical implications of PH practice including academic ethicists, health policy makers, health technology assessment bodies, and PH professionals. It will enable those who implement a PH intervention and those affected by it (i.e., the target population) to critically assess whether and how the required ethical considerations have been taken into account. Thereby, the framework can contribute to assuring the quality of ethical analysis in PH. Whether the presented framework will be able to achieve its goals has to be determined by evaluating its practical application.
PMCID: PMC4319377
public health practice; health policy; ethics; program evaluation; ethical theory
18.  Representation and Misrepresentation of Scientific Evidence in Contemporary Tobacco Regulation: A Review of Tobacco Industry Submissions to the UK Government Consultation on Standardised Packaging 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001629.
Selda Ulucanlar and colleagues analyze submissions by two tobacco companies to the UK government consultation on standardized packaging.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Standardised packaging (SP) of tobacco products is an innovative tobacco control measure opposed by transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) whose responses to the UK government's public consultation on SP argued that evidence was inadequate to support implementing the measure. The government's initial decision, announced 11 months after the consultation closed, was to wait for ‘more evidence’, but four months later a second ‘independent review’ was launched. In view of the centrality of evidence to debates over SP and TTCs' history of denying harms and manufacturing uncertainty about scientific evidence, we analysed their submissions to examine how they used evidence to oppose SP.
Methods and Findings
We purposively selected and analysed two TTC submissions using a verification-oriented cross-documentary method to ascertain how published studies were used and interpretive analysis with a constructivist grounded theory approach to examine the conceptual significance of TTC critiques. The companies' overall argument was that the SP evidence base was seriously flawed and did not warrant the introduction of SP. However, this argument was underpinned by three complementary techniques that misrepresented the evidence base. First, published studies were repeatedly misquoted, distorting the main messages. Second, ‘mimicked scientific critique’ was used to undermine evidence; this form of critique insisted on methodological perfection, rejected methodological pluralism, adopted a litigation (not scientific) model, and was not rigorous. Third, TTCs engaged in ‘evidential landscaping’, promoting a parallel evidence base to deflect attention from SP and excluding company-held evidence relevant to SP. The study's sample was limited to sub-sections of two out of four submissions, but leaked industry documents suggest at least one other company used a similar approach.
The TTCs' claim that SP will not lead to public health benefits is largely without foundation. The tools of Better Regulation, particularly stakeholder consultation, provide an opportunity for highly resourced corporations to slow, weaken, or prevent public health policies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, about 6 million people die from tobacco-related diseases and, if current trends continue, annual tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than 8 million by 2030. To reduce this loss of life, national and international bodies have drawn up various conventions and directives designed to implement tobacco control measures such as the adoption of taxation policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. One innovative but largely unused tobacco control measure is standardised packaging of tobacco products. Standardised packaging aims to prevent the use of packaging as a marketing tool by removing all brand imagery and text (other than name) and by introducing packs of a standard shape and colour that include prominent pictorial health warnings. Standardised packaging was first suggested as a tobacco control measure in 1986 but has been consistently opposed by the tobacco industry.
Why Was This Study Done?
The UK is currently considering standardised packaging of tobacco products. In the UK, Better Regulation guidance obliges officials to seek the views of stakeholders, including corporations, on the government's cost and benefit estimates of regulatory measures such as standardised packaging and on the evidence underlying these estimates. In response to a public consultation about standardised packaging in July 2013, which considered submissions from several transnational tobacco companies (TTCs), the UK government announced that it would wait for the results of the standardised packaging legislation that Australia adopted in December 2012 before making its final decision about this tobacco control measure. Parliamentary debates and media statements have suggested that doubt over the adequacy of the evidence was the main reason for this ‘wait and see’ decision. Notably, TTCs have a history of manufacturing uncertainty about the scientific evidence related to the harms of tobacco. Given the centrality of evidence to the debate about standardised packaging, in this study, the researchers analyse submissions made by two TTCs, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), to the first UK consultation on standardised packaging (a second review is currently underway and will report shortly) to examine how TTCs used evidence to oppose standardised packaging.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analysed sub-sections of two of the four TTC submissions (those submitted by BAT and JTI) made to the public consultation using verification-oriented cross-documentary analysis, which compared references made to published sources with the original sources to ascertain how these sources had been used, and interpretative analysis to examine the conceptual significance of TTC critiques of the evidence on standardised packaging. The researchers report that the companies' overall argument was that the evidence base in support of standardised packaging was seriously flawed and did not warrant the introduction of such packaging. The researchers identified three ways in which the TTC reports misrepresented the evidence base. First, the TTCs misquoted published studies, thereby distorting the main messages of these studies. For example, the TTCs sometimes omitted important qualifying information when quoting from published studies. Second, the TTCs undermined evidence by employing experts to review published studies for methodological rigor and value in ways that did not conform to normal scientific critique approaches (‘mimicked scientific critique’). So, for example, the experts considered each piece of evidence in isolation for its ability to support standardised packaging rather than considering the cumulative weight of the evidence. Finally, the TTCs engaged in ‘evidential landscaping’. That is, they promoted research that deflected attention from standardised packaging (for example, research into social explanations of smoking behaviour) and omitted internal industry research on the role of packaging in marketing.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the TTC critique of the evidence in favour of standardised packaging that was presented to the UK public consultation on this tobacco control measure is highly misleading. However, because the researchers' analysis only considered subsections of the submissions from two TTCs, these findings may not be applicable to the other submissions or to other TTCs. Moreover, their analysis only considered the efforts made by TTCs to influence public health policy and not the effectiveness of these efforts. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the claim of TTCs that standardised packaging will not lead to public health benefits is largely without foundation. More generally, these findings highlight the possibility that the tools of Better Regulation, particularly stakeholder consultation, provide an opportunity for wealthy corporations to slow, weaken, or prevent the implementation of public health policies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages) and an article about first experiences with Australia's tobacco plain packaging law; for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report ‘Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control’
A UK parliamentary briefing on standardised packaging of tobacco products, a press release about the consultation, and a summary report of the consultation are available; the ideas behind the UK's Better Regulation guidance are described in a leaflet produced by the Better Regulation Task Force
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has a web page with information on standardised packaging and includes videos
Wikipedia has a page on standardised packaging of tobacco products (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies is a network of UK universities that undertakes original research, policy development, advocacy, and teaching and training in the field of tobacco control, an online resource managed by the University of Bath, provides up-to-date information on the tobacco industry and the tactics it uses to influence tobacco regulation
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
PMCID: PMC3965396  PMID: 24667150
19.  Experiences with Policing among People Who Inject Drugs in Bangkok, Thailand: A Qualitative Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(12):e1001570.
Using thematic analysis, Kerr and colleagues document the experiences of policing among people who inject drugs in Bangkok and examine how interactions with police can affect drug-using behaviors and health care access.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Despite Thailand's commitment to treating people who use drugs as “patients” not “criminals,” Thai authorities continue to emphasize criminal law enforcement for drug control. In 2003, Thailand's drug war received international criticism due to extensive human rights violations. However, few studies have since investigated the impact of policing on drug-using populations. Therefore, we sought to examine experiences with policing among people who inject drugs (PWID) in Bangkok, Thailand, between 2008 and 2012.
Methods and Findings
Between July 2011 and June 2012, semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 42 community-recruited PWID participating in the Mitsampan Community Research Project in Bangkok. Interviews explored PWID's encounters with police during the past three years. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim, and a thematic analysis was conducted to document the character of PWID's experiences with police. Respondents indicated that policing activities had noticeably intensified since rapid urine toxicology screening became available to police. Respondents reported various forms of police misconduct, including false accusations, coercion of confessions, excessive use of force, and extortion of money. However, respondents were reluctant to report misconduct to the authorities in the face of social and structural barriers to seeking justice. Respondents' strategies to avoid police impeded access to health care and facilitated transitions towards the misuse of prescribed pharmaceuticals. The study's limitations relate to the transferability of the findings, including the potential biases associated with the small convenience sample.
This study suggests that policing in Bangkok has involved injustices, human rights abuses, and corruption, and policing practices in this setting appeared to have increased PWID's vulnerability to poor health through various pathways. Novel to this study are findings pertaining to the use of urine drug testing by police, which highlight the potential for widespread abuse of this emerging technology. These findings raise concern about ongoing policing practices in this setting.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In many countries, the dominant strategy used to control illegal drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine is criminal law enforcement, a strategy that sometimes results in human rights abuses such as ill-treatment by police, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention. Moreover, growing evidence suggests that aggressive policing of illicit drug use can have adverse public-health consequences. For example, the fear engendered by intensive policing may cause people who inject drugs (PWID) to avoid services such as needle exchanges, thereby contributing to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. One country with major epidemics of illicit drug use and of HIV/AIDS among PWID is Thailand. Although Thailand reclassified drug users as “patients” instead of “criminals” in 2002, possession and consumption of illicit drugs remain criminal offenses. The 2002 legislation also created a system of compulsory drug detention centers, most of which lack evidence-based addiction treatment services. In 2003, the Thai government launched a campaign to suppress drug trafficking and to enrol 300,000 people who use drugs into treatment. This campaign received international criticism because it involved extensive human rights violations, including more than 2,800 extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users and dealers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Drug-related arrests and compulsory detention of drug users are increasing in Thailand but what is the impact of current policing practices on drug users and on public health? In this qualitative study (a study that aims for an in-depth understanding of human behavior), the researchers use thematic analysis informed by the Rhodes' Risk Environment Framework to document the social and structural factors that led to encounters with the police among PWID in Bangkok between 2008 and 2012, the policing tactics employed during these encounters, and the associated health consequences of these encounters. The Risk Environment Framework posits that a range of social, political, economic, and physical environmental factors interact with each other and shape the production of drug-related harm.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between July 2011 and June 2012, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with a convenience sample (a non-random sample from a nearby population) of 42 participants in the Mitsampan Community Research Project, an investigation of drug-using behavior, health care access, and drug-related harms among PWID in Bangkok. Respondents reported that policing activities had intensified since rapid urine toxicology screening became widely available and since the initiation of a crackdown on drug users in 2011. They described various forms of violence and misconduct that they had experienced during confrontations with police, including false accusations, degrading stop and search procedures, and excessive use of force. Urine drug testing was identified as a key tool used by the police, with some respondents describing how police caused unnecessary humiliation by requesting urine samples in public places. It was also reported that the police used positive test results as a means of extortion. Finally, some respondents reported feeling powerless in relation to the police and cited fear of retaliation as an important barrier to obtaining redress for police corruption. Others reported that they had adopted strategies to avoid the police such as staying indoors, a strategy likely to impede access to health care, or changing their drug-using behavior by, for example, injecting midazolam rather than methamphetamine, a practice associated with an increased risk of injection-related complications.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the policing of PWID in Bangkok between 2008 and 2012 involved injustices, human rights abuses, and corruption and highlight the potential for widespread misuse of urine drug testing. Moreover, they suggest that policing practices in this setting may have increased the vulnerability of PWID to poor health by impeding their access to health care and by increasing the occurrence of risky drug-using behaviors. Because this study involved a small convenience sample of PWID, these findings may not be generalizable to other areas of Bangkok or Thailand and do not indicate whether police misconduct and corruption is highly prevalent across the all police departments in Bangkok. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that multilevel structural changes and interventions are needed to mitigate the harm associated with policing of illicit drug use in Bangkok. These changes will need to ensure full accountability for police misconduct and access to legal services for victims of this misconduct. They will also need to include ethical guidelines for urine drug testing and the reform of policies that promote repressive policing and compulsory detention.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Burris and Koester
Human Rights Watch, a global organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, has information about drug policy and human rights, which includes information on Thailand
The Global Commission on Drug Policy published a report in June 2012 entitled “The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic” (available in several languages)
The Global Commission on HIV and the Law published a report in July 2012 entitled “HIV and the Law: Risk, Rights and Health” (available in several languages), the Open Society Foundations have prepared a briefing on this report
More information about the Mitsampan Community Research Project is available
PMCID: PMC3858231  PMID: 24339753
20.  Public Health and Health Promotion Capacity at National and Regional Level: A Review of Conceptual Frameworks 
The concept of capacity building for public health has gained much attention during the last decade. National as well as international organizations increasingly focus their efforts on capacity building to improve performance in the health sector. During the past two decades, a variety of conceptual frameworks have been developed which describe relevant dimensions for public health capacity. Notably, these frameworks differ in design and conceptualization. This paper therefore reviews the existing conceptual frameworks and integrates them into one framework, which contains the most relevant dimensions for public health capacity at the country- or regional level. A comprehensive literature search was performed to identify frameworks addressing public health capacity building at the national or regional level. We content-analysed these frameworks to identify the core dimensions of public health capacity. The dimensions were subsequently synthesized into a set of thematic areas to construct a conceptual framework which describes the most relevant dimensions for capacities at the national- or regional level. The systematic review resulted in the identification of seven core domains for public health capacity: resources, organizational structures, workforce, partnerships, leadership and governance, knowledge development and country specific context. Accordingly, these dimensions were used to construct a framework, which describes these core domains more in detail. Our research shows that although there is no generally agreedupon model of public health capacity, a number of key domains for public health and health promotion capacity are consistently recurring in existing frameworks, regardless of their geographical location or thematic area. As only little work on the core concepts of public health capacities has yet taken place, this study adds value to the discourse by identifying these consistencies across existing frameworks and by synthesising them into a new framework. The framework proposed in this paper can act as a theoretical guide for academic researchers and institutions to set up their own public health capacity assessment.
Significance for public healthAs the concept of public health capacities is increasingly debated across countries and national/ international organizations, there is no consensus on the main dimensions of public health capacity. This paper therefore provides a rigorous review of currently existing frameworks, which describe public health capacities at the national or regional level. The main objective is to highlight commonalities among these frameworks, and propose a country-level framework which integrates all reoccurring dimensions. Such a comparison can yield vital information on those dimensions for public health capacities, which are common across all frameworks, and hence could be considered indispensable, irrespective of their context or geographic origin. As such, this review and the subsequent presentation of a conceptual framework is targeted at academic researchers and policy makers, who are interested in setting up a capacity mapping process and who are looking for concepts and frameworks on which they can base their work.
PMCID: PMC4140385  PMID: 25170508
capacity building; framework; public health; health promotion
21.  Behavioural and skill-based early interventions in children with autism spectrum disorders 
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) comprise typical or infantile autism (Kanner syndrome), Asperger’s disorder and atypical autism or pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified. The syndrome is characterized by deficits in (1) verbal and nonverbal communication, (2) reciprocal social interaction and (3) repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests and activities.
Early behavioural interventions are based on learning theory and behaviour therapy. They take into account specific deficits in perception, emotional reactions, social interaction and communication. In Germany, these comprehensive models are not widely evaluated and implemented.
Research questions
What are the clinical effectiveness and safety of early behavioural or skills-based early interventions in autism compared to other interventions or to treatment as usual?What are specific factors responsible for the effectiveness?What are the cost-effectiveness and cost consequences of different early interventions in autism?Which legal, social and ethical aspects are relevant with regard to the implementation of the respective interventions in persons with autism?
Following a systematic review of the literature, controlled studies on early behavioural or skills-based interventions published since 2000 in English or German with children until the age of twelve are included and critically appraised. Studies must have at least ten participants per intervention group.
In total, 15 publications based on 14 studies, eight systematic reviews and one health economic study are included. Most studies evaluate early interventions based upon the Lovaas model (Early intensive behavioural treatment (EIBT), Applied behavioural analysis (ABA)). Other evaluate pragmatic interventions or interventions based on other theoretical models like specific parent interventions, responsive education and prelinguistic milieu teaching, joint attention, symbolic play, and picture exchange communication system. Behaviour analytic interventions referring to the Lovaas model remain the most empirically evaluated early interventions in autism. Preschool children with autism can achieve improvements in cognitive and functional domains when treated within behavioural interventions with a frequency of at least 20 hours per week. It is not clear which is the minimum duration of effective interventions, and which active components are necessary for the effectiveness. There was no high quality evidence for other comprehensive early interventions. The identified health economic study is not suitable to evaluate the cost-effectiveness or cost consequences of early interventions. No publications concerning legal, ethical or social aspects were identified. The financial situation of persons with autisms and their families will be improved through the implementation of the “Pflege-Weiterententwicklungsgesetz” (Pf-WG). Further questions concern the organisation of care and the legal representation of autistic patients. Ethical questions arise mainly in the context of the equal supply of care to each individual patient in all regions of the country and the situation of the caregivers.
There are only a few studies with high methodology evaluating early interventions in children with autism. Most studies have a short duration with a lack of blinded outcome assessment in many cases. The lack of high quality comparative studies does not allow answering questions of comparative effectiveness of early interventions in autism. It can be concluded that interventions referring to the Lovaas model seem to have the highest effectiveness. This seems to be especially true when they are run clinic-based. However, there was no solid evidence with regard to factors responsible for the effectiveness of programms according to the ABA model. With regard to communication improvement, a systematic parent training seems to be superior to treatment as usual where a mixture of therapeutic elements is used. As well for clinical and health economic studies there is a substantial problem of generalisability into the German context. The identified health economic study is not suitable to evaluate the cost-effectiveness or cost consequences of early interventions.
Based on the available studies, there is no sufficient evidence for any of the evaluated behavioural early intervention programmes. Studies suggest that preschool children with autism in behavioural intervention programmes with a frequency of at least 20 hours per week can achieve improvements in cognitive and functional domains. There is no evidence that in a substantial portion of the children a normal development can be achieved by early interventions. Most research evidence is available for ABA. A minimal necessary intensity of interventions to achieve positive outcomes cannot be derived from literature. There are no valid statements possible as to cost-effectiveness or consequences of these interventions. Effective early interventions may reduce total autism costs in the long run. This may be achieved when the initial high treatment expenditures are more than compensated later if persons with this disorder have better social functioning.
PMCID: PMC3011283  PMID: 21289897
22.  Developing integrated health and social care services for older persons in Europe 
This paper is to distribute first results of the EU Fifth Framework Project ‘Providing integrated health and social care for older persons—issues, problems and solutions’ (PROCARE— The project's first phase was to identify different approaches to integration as well as structural, organisational, economic and social-cultural factors and actors that constitute integrated and sustainable care systems. It also served to retrieve a number of experiences, model ways of working and demonstration projects in the participating countries which are currently being analysed in order to learn from success—or failure—and to develop policy recommendations for the local, national and European level.
The paper draws on existing definitions of integrated care in various countries and by various scholars. Given the context of an international comparative study it tries to avoid providing a single, ready-made definition but underlines the role of social care as part and parcel of this type of integrated care in the participating countries.
The paper is based on national reports from researchers representing ten organisations (university institutes, consultancy firms, research institutes, the public and the NGO sector) from 9 European countries: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK. Literature reviews made intensive use of grey literature and evaluation studies in the context of at least five model ways of working in each country.
As a result of the cross-national overview an attempt to classify different approaches and definitions is made and indicators of relative importance of the different instruments used in integrating health and social care services are provided.
The cross-national overview shows that issues concerning co-ordination and integration of services are high on the agenda in most countries. Depending on the state of service development, various approaches and instruments can be observed. Different national frameworks, in particular with respect to financing and organisation, systemic development, professionalisation and professional cultures, basic societal values (family ethics), and political approaches have to be taken into account during the second phase of PROCARE during which transversal and transnational analysis will be undertaken based on an in-depth analysis of two model ways of working in each country.
Far from a European vision concerning integrated care, national health and social care systems remain—at best—loosely coupled systems that are facing increasing difficulties, given the current challenges, in particular in long-term care for older persons: increasing marketisation, lack of managerial knowledge (co-operation, co-ordination), shortage of care workers and a general trend towards down-sizing of social care services continue to hamper the first tentative pathways towards integrated care systems.
PMCID: PMC1393267  PMID: 16773149
health and social care; integrated service delivery; older persons in need of care; European overview
23.  The major medical ethical challenges facing the public and healthcare providers in Saudi Arabia 
Despite the relatively high expenditure on healthcare in Saudi Arabia, its health system remains highly centralized in the main cities with its primary focus on secondary and tertiary care rather than primary care. This has led to numerous ethical challenges for the healthcare providers. This article reports the results of a study conducted with a panel of practitioners, and non-clinicians, in Saudi Arabia, in order to identify the top ten ethical challenges for healthcare providers, patients, and their families.
Materials and Methods:
The study design was a cross-sectional, descriptive, and qualitative one. The participants were asked the question: “What top ten ethical challenges are Saudis likely to face in health care?” The participants were asked to rank the top ten ethical challenges throughout a modified Delphi process, using a ranking Scale. A consensus was reached after three rounds of questions and an experts’ meeting.
The major 10 ethical issues, as perceived by the participants in order of their importance, were: (1) Patients’ Rights, (2) Equity of resources, (3) Confidentiality of the patients, (4) Patient Safety, (5) Conflict of Interests, (6) Ethics of privatization, (7) Informed Consent, (8) Dealing with the opposite sex, (9) Beginning and end of life, and (10) Healthcare team ethics.
Although many of the challenges listed by the participants have received significant public and specialized attention worldwide, scant attention has been paid to these top challenges in Saudi Arabia. We propose several possible steps to help address these key challenges.
PMCID: PMC3326764  PMID: 22518351
Bioethics; ethical issues; ethics priorities; medical ethics
24.  The Being of Leadership 
The ethical foundation of the medical profession, which values service above reward and holds the doctor-patient relationship as inviolable, continues to be challenged by the commercialization of health care. This article contends that a realigned leadership framework - one that distinguishes being a leader as the ontological basis for what leaders know, have, and do - is central to safeguarding medicine's ethical foundation. Four ontological pillars of leadership - awareness, commitment, integrity, and authenticity - are proposed as fundamental elements that anchor this foundation and the basic tenets of professionalism. Ontological leadership is shaped by and accessible through language; what health care leaders create in language "uses" them by providing a point of view (a context) within and from which they orient their conversations, decisions, and conduct such that they are ethically aligned and grounded. This contextual leadership framework exposes for us the limitations imposed by our mental maps, creating new opportunity sets for being and action (previously unavailable) that embody medicine's charter on professionalism. While this leadership methodology contrasts with the conventional results-oriented model where leading is generally equated with a successful clinical practice, a distinguished research program, or a promotion, it is not a replacement for it; indeed, results are essential for performance. Rather, being and action are interrelated and their correlated nature equips leaders with a framework for tackling health care's most complex problems in a manner that preserves medicine's venerable ethical heritage.
PMCID: PMC3050817  PMID: 21349187
25.  Relationship between Funding Source and Conclusion among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e5.
Industrial support of biomedical research may bias scientific conclusions, as demonstrated by recent analyses of pharmaceutical studies. However, this issue has not been systematically examined in the area of nutrition research. The purpose of this study is to characterize financial sponsorship of scientific articles addressing the health effects of three commonly consumed beverages, and to determine how sponsorship affects published conclusions.
Methods and Findings
Medline searches of worldwide literature were used to identify three article types (interventional studies, observational studies, and scientific reviews) about soft drinks, juice, and milk published between 1 January, 1999 and 31 December, 2003. Financial sponsorship and article conclusions were classified by independent groups of coinvestigators. The relationship between sponsorship and conclusions was explored by exact tests and regression analyses, controlling for covariates. 206 articles were included in the study, of which 111 declared financial sponsorship. Of these, 22% had all industry funding, 47% had no industry funding, and 32% had mixed funding. Funding source was significantly related to conclusions when considering all article types (p = 0.037). For interventional studies, the proportion with unfavorable conclusions was 0% for all industry funding versus 37% for no industry funding (p = 0.009). The odds ratio of a favorable versus unfavorable conclusion was 7.61 (95% confidence interval 1.27 to 45.73), comparing articles with all industry funding to no industry funding.
Industry funding of nutrition-related scientific articles may bias conclusions in favor of sponsors' products, with potentially significant implications for public health.
In 111 scientific articles on nonalcoholic beverages, articles with all industry funding were more than 7 times more likely to have favorable conclusions compared with articles with no industry funding.
Editors' Summary
Much of the money available for doing medical research comes from companies, as opposed to government agencies or charities. There is some evidence that when a research study is sponsored by an organization that has a financial interest in the outcome, the study is more likely to produce results that favor the funder (this is called “sponsorship bias”). This phenomenon is worrying, because if our knowledge about effectiveness and safety of medicines is based on biased findings, patients could suffer. However, it is not clear whether sponsorship bias extends beyond research into drugs, but also affects other types of research that is in the public interest. For example, research into the health benefits, or otherwise, of different types of food and drink may affect government guidelines, regulations, and the behavior patterns of members of the public. Were sponsorship bias also to exist in this area of research, the health of the wider public could be affected.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is not a great deal of evidence about whether sponsorship bias affects nutritional research (scientific studies that look at the relationship between food and/or drink, and health or disease states). Therefore, the group of researchers here set out to collect information from published nutritional research papers, to see if the type of sponsorship for the research studies was in any way linked with whether the main conclusions were favorable or unfavorable to the sponsor.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The research study reported here used the scientific literature as a source of data. The researchers chose to examine one particular area of nutrition (nonalcoholic drinks including soft drinks, juices, and milk), so that their investigation would not be affected too much by variability between the different types of nutritional research. Using literature searches, the researchers identified all original research and scientific review articles published between January 1999 and December 2003 that examined soft drinks, juices, and milk; described research carried out in humans; and at the same time drew conclusions relevant to health or disease. Then, information from each published article was categorized: the conclusions were coded as either favorable, unfavorable, or neutral in relation to the health effects of the products being studied, and the article's funding was coded as either all industry (ie, food/drinks companies), no industry, or mixed. 206 published articles were analyzed and only 54% declared funding. The researchers found that, overall, there was a strong association between the type of funding available for these articles and the conclusions that were drawn. Articles sponsored exclusively by food/drinks companies were four to eight times more likely to have conclusions favorable to the financial interests of the sponsoring company than articles which were not sponsored by food or drinks companies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that a high potential for bias exists in research into the health benefits or harms of nonalcoholic drinks. It is not clear from this research study why or how this bias comes about, but there are many different mechanisms that might cause it. The researchers suggest that certain initiatives might help to reduce bias, for example, increasing independent funding of nutrition research.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Conflict of Interest definition from Wikipedia (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors provides standard guidelines for practices at medical journals, including a section on sponsorship, authorship, and accountability
The Committee on Publication Ethics is a forum for journal editors to discuss issues related to the integrity of the scientific record, and it provides guidelines for editors and case studies for reference
The Good Publication Practice guidelines outline standards for responsible publication of research sponsored by pharmaceutical companies
PMCID: PMC1764435  PMID: 17214504

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