What did the scientific literature learn from internal company documents in the pharmaceutical industry? A scoping review

This review by Marc-André Gagnon and Miaoran Dong has been published in Cochrane Evidence Synthesis and Methods. The abstract says:


To identify all scientific papers that used internal industry documents in the pharmaceutical sector and analyze what and how the scientific literature learned about corporate influence in the pharmaceutical sector through these internal documents.


Scoping review.


Using different series of keywords, we searched six databases, PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, CINAHL, Business Source Complete, and PAIS, for peer-reviewed journal articles analyzing pharmaceutical corporations’ internal documents. We completed the scoping review using a purposive snowball sampling method to extract relevant case studies and peer-reviewed journal articles from relevant articles’ reference lists when our search keywords failed to capture them. To analyze the content of the literature and better categorize the types of corporate strategies at play in the pharmaceutical sector, we used categories of ghost-management previously developed in the literature.


We identified 37 peer-reviewed papers in the final results. All the articles included in the final results are published in English. Almost all articles obtained most of their internal document data through legal proceedings. All 37 articles unveil dynamic ghost-management strategies that pharmaceutical corporations employ to safeguard their corporate interest. The strategies identified relate to scientific capture (n = 28), professional capture (n = 16), regulatory capture (n = 6), media capture (n = 3), market capture (n = 4), technological capture (n = 2), civil society capture (n = 4), and others (n = 2).


The scientific literature using internal documents confirmed widespread corporate influence in the pharmaceutical sector. While the academic literature used internal documents related to only a handful of products, our research results, based on ghost-management categories, demonstrate the extent of corporate influence in every interstice of pharmaceutical markets, particularly in clinical research and clinical practice. It also allows us to better refine the conceptual categories of ghost-management to better map corporate influence and conflict of interest.”

You can read the full review from here.

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