I wasn’t surprised a bit to learn that pharmaceutical giant Wyeth has paid ghostwriters to produce medical journal articles favorable to its hormone therapy drug, Prempro. According to Congressional letters seeking more information about the company’s involvement in medical ghostwriting, this appears to have been the case. At least one article was published even after a federal study found the drug raised the risk of breast cancer.
Senator Charles Grassley, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, asked Wyeth and DesignWrite, a medical writing firm, to disclose payments related to the preparation of journal articles and the activities of doctors who were recruited to put their names on them for publication. This is part of a continuing investigation by the Republican Senator from Iowa into drug industry influence on doctors. In his letter to Wyeth’s chairman and chief executive, Bernard J. Poussot, Senator Grassley wrote:
Any attempt to manipulate the scientific literature, that can in turn mislead doctors to prescribe drugs that may not work and/or cause harm to their patients, is very troubling.
Dozens of internal corporate documents gathered from lawsuits have been released by Grassley’s staff. These documents show the role of Wyeth and DesignWrite in creating articles promoting hormone therapy for menopausal women as far back as 1997. The documents show company executives came up with ideas for medical journal articles, titled them, drafted outlines, paid writers to draft the manuscripts, recruited academic authors and identified publications to run the articles. They did this without telling journal editors or readers of their roles.
Senator Grassley contends that with the Wyeth commissioned articles, the expert authors whose names appear on the articles only became involved after the outlines or drafts of the articles were already written. To date, Wyeth executives have insisted that their publication practices were legitimate and that the listed authors played significant roles in developing journal articles.
These activities are in violation of medical journal guidelines. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors says authorship means “substantive intellectual contributions” including conception or analysis of the subject and drafting or critical revision of the document. The World Association of Medical Editors says ghost authorship ‘ which it defines as a substantial contribution not mentioned in the manuscript ‘ is “dishonest and unacceptable.”
Ted Meadows, Melissa Prickett, and Russ Abney, the lawyers working on hormone therapy at our firm, continue to investigate potential cases as they are filing and litigating others. If you need more information on this subject contact any of them at 800-898-2034.
Source: New York Times & Wall Street Journal
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