Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Index of 2009

New training date

The date of our next introduction to medical writing course is now confirmed as 26 February 2010. Continue reading→

Bugs in showerheads

A schoolboy error in one of the health news stories from the BBC today provides further evidence for a theory I've recently been developing.

The headline reads Taking showers 'can make you ill'. Once you read more, however, you realise that the research on which it's based provides no evidence whatever that taking showers can make you ill. All it shows is that various unpleasant bugs, such as Mycobacterium avium, can lurk in shower heads. Given that most people shower every day and seldom develop mycobacterial infections, I suspect that any risk from such infected shower heads must be pretty low. For the journalist to write a headline like that is an egregious example of extrapolating beyond your data.

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Conflicts of interest

We are no strangers to conflicts of interest in the world of medical writing. The best known case of this is when a pharmaceutical company has paid someone to write an article about one of their own drugs. The conflict of interest here is obvious. Because it is so obvious, however, journal editors are very well aware of the potential for bias in this situation, so such conflicts of interests are, in the main, transparent and well managed. That doesn't mean that some egregiously biased articles don't sometimes slip through the net, of course, but in my experience that doesn't happen often.

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One of the various roles I fulfil is sitting on a research ethics committee. For those unfamiliar with the system, all medical research involving human subjects needs to be reviewed and approved by a research ethics committee before it can take place. We make sure that subjects are not put at unnecessary risk and are properly informed about what they are letting themselves in for.

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Interesting blog on ghostwriting

Kate Johnson, a medical journalist from Canada, has just written an excellent blog on medical ghostwriting. She makes a clear distinction between ghostwriting, which is unethical, and legitimate professional writing assistance, which, she argues, plays an important role in both improving the quality of publications and their timely appearance in the literature.

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Job applications

We get a lot of speculative job applications at Dianthus from people who want to be medical writers. I am always amazed how much the quality of those applications varies. Sometimes we get excellent ones, and we have been known to recruit medical writers that way.

Today, however, I received one in which the subject line of the email was "mdical writing position". Needless to say, we won't be offering the sender a job.

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Everything is crap

I don't think I'm paranoid, but sometimes I feel everyone really is out to get me. Why is it so hard to get products and services that just work and do what they are supposed to do? Some examples:

Ikea. I won't say any more for now about my own recent experience while it's still with the lawyers, but watch this space for all the details in due course. I'm sure you know what they're like anyway.

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Come and see us in Nice

We will be exhibiting at the DIA Clinical Forum in Nice on 19-21 October. Please come and see us on stand 34 if you're going to be at the conference.

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How do we find our clients?

People often ask me how Dianthus Medical finds its clients. Truth is, we find clients through various different ways, but I just want to write here about one way in which we definitely don't find our clients.

I've been getting a lot of phone calls recently from people who claim that they are representing senior executives in pharmaceutical companies and have been given the task of finding medical writing, clinical data management, or statistics providers. All I have to do to meet these people who are so eager to use our services is to turn up to a meeting, organised by the person calling me, and pay them a big fat juicy fee.

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Interesting new cancer research

There's an interesting story in the news today about some recent cancer research. The research, published in Cell, describes investigation of the ability of various molecules to kill cancer stem cells, and comes up with a promising candidate drug for future research, salinomycin.

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