Drug Maker Accused Of Paying Ghostwriters To Pen Journal Articles

A drug company is accused of paying ghostwriters to write favorable articles about their drugs — even after one drug was shown to raise the risk of cancer.

Drug maker Wyeth paid ghostwriters to write medical journal articles that were favorable to its female hormone replacement therapy drug, according to Congressional letters referenced in an article in the NYT.

The letters, sent electronically Friday by Senator Charles E. Grassley, ask 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.

The letters are part of a continuing investigation by Mr. Grassley, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, into drug industry influence on doctors.

“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,” Mr. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, wrote Friday to Wyeth’s chairman and chief executive, Bernard J. Poussot.

One article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommended a hormone replacement therapy drug that now carries a cancer risk warning. The article claimed that there was “no definitive evidence” that the drug caused breast cancer.

According to the NYT, the documents show that the drug company executives came up with ideas for the articles, titled them, paid writers to write the manuscripts, “recruited academic authors and identified publications to run the articles — all without disclosing the companies’ roles to journal editors or readers.”

At least 10 of the articles seem to have been written before they were submitted to the “author” to review. In all cases, the drug company had final say before the articles were published.

Drug Maker Said to Pay Ghostwriters for Journal Articles [NYT]