The Global Alliance of Publication Professionals – a primer for pharmaceutical executives

Karen Woolley, Adam Jacobs, Art Gertel, Cindy Hamilton, Gene Snyder

The Global Alliance of Publication Professionals

If you publish results from industry-sponsored studies, you should know about GAPP. This article highlights GAPP, its successes…and what you can do to help GAPP help you.

What is GAPP?

The Global Alliance for Publication Professionals (GAPP) was founded in 2012 by five publication professionals (professional medical writers, publication planners) from Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region.

Each founding member of GAPP holds or has held leadership roles in the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA, www.amwa.org), the European Medical Writers Association (EMWA, www.emwa.org), or the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP, www.ismpp.org).

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“…ghostwriters have NO role to play in preparing publications from industry-sponsored trials.”

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Why should pharmaceutical executives know about GAPP?

Leaders in pharmaceutical companies should know about GAPP because GAPP is making industry critics (and others) aware of the difference between past and present publication practices in industry, particularly in terms of the increasing use of professional medical writers and the decreasing use of ghostwriters.

Professional medical writers follow ethical publication practices, ghostwriters do not. GAPP is reinforcing that ghostwriters have NO role to play in preparing publications from industry-sponsored trials.

Industry executives should also be aware of the evidence GAPP has identified or generated showing that manuscripts prepared with professional medical writing support, relative to those without support, are:

• Accepted more quickly

• More compliant with best-practice reporting guidelines, and

• Less likely to be retracted for misconduct

As industry needs publication professionals to ensure results from its trials are reported ethically, quickly, and completely, it is important that publication professionals are not caught up in the laudable efforts to ban ghostwriters. GAPP is complementing the work done by associations representing publication professionals (e.g., AMWA, EMWA, ISMPP) to ensure that does not happen.

What success has GAPP had?

Nobody knew if GAPP would be successful, including GAPP’s founders. GAPP was breaking new ground, bringing leaders from different associations together, in a voluntary and independent manner, to see if we could provide a quicker and stronger voice for our profession. GAPP has been highly successful both in terms of its output and its operations.

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“…professional medical writers support integrity in the medical literature, ghostwriters undermine it.”

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GAPP success – output:

GAPP has provided timely and credible responses to articles about publication professionals, particularly those articles that have conflated professional medical writers with ghostwriters. The two are not the same! As GAPP has highlighted in many of its published articles, professional medical writers support integrity in the medical literature, ghostwriters undermine it. Although this distinction may seem obvious to many in the pharmaceutical industry, it is not common knowledge amongst industry critics. GAPP is helping to make industry critics more aware of the difference and has done so via:

• Publishing articles in highly regarded, international, peer-reviewed journals (e.g., The American Journal of Medicine, Current Medical Research &amp, Opinion, Trials)

• Providing brief or detailed responses to contentious articles or enquiries from mainstream media (e.g., Forbes) and social media (e.g., Retraction Watch).

• Preparing government submission material (e.g., UK Parliament’s inquiry into industry-sponsored clinical trials and data disclosure)

A summary of the key points made by GAPP in the articles and responses it has made to date can be found at www.gappteam.org.

GAPP success – operations:

GAPP has provided a tangible example to show how leaders from associations that represent publication professionals can work together to benefit members from all associations. GAPP has proven that it can operate effectively using a low-cost, high-trust model – GAPP relies on the passion and dedication of each of its volunteers and the trust they place in each other.

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“Alert GAPP to any “potentially influential” articles that conflate professional medical writers with ghostwriters.”

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What can you do to help GAPP help you?

Readers of pharmaphorum can help GAPP gain support and understanding for industry’s current publication practices. Here are three very practical ways that you can help GAPP help you:

1. Alert GAPP to any “potentially influential” articles that conflate professional medical writers with ghostwriters. Become a GAPP scout and help us challenge articles that propagate outdated or poorly informed arguments.

2. Send GAPP testimonials from highly respected researchers who have worked ethically and effectively with professional medical writers or publication planners on industry-sponsored clinical trials. We are collecting and generating evidence about the value and ethics of publication professionals, but “end-user” opinions still count!

3. Connect a journalist to GAPP. Journalists typically face pressing deadlines and if they can’t obtain timely and credible input about current publication practices, they may be forced to use “old material” or rely on only one (and potentially negative) perspective. Critics have made themselves readily available to journalists, GAPP is readily available too!

In summary, GAPP is striving to stand up for publication professionals. We cannot and should not be confused with ghostwriters. We know that publication professionals help industry (as well as academic and government organisations) publish important results from clinical trials in a fast, ethical, and effective manner. GAPP is determined to make sure critics know that too.

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About the authors:

Readers of pharmaphorum can find out more about GAPP via our website or by interacting with us via email, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Do you know how to help GAPP help you?