Merck Ghostwrote Vioxx Studies For Doctors

Newly unearthed documents may reveal that Merck Pharmaceuticals ghostwrote dozens of Vioxx studies and then paid well-known doctors to put their name on them as if they wrote them, according to a new article to be published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). In one instance, a draft version of an article to be published listed the lead author as “External author?” Dr. Steven H. Ferris, one of the doctors whose research was questioned, call the article “simply false”, its allegations “egregious.” Let’s see what the JAMA article has to say about the study Ferris supposedly worked on:

When publishing their own clinical trials (designed, conducted, and sponsored by
Merck), documents were found describing Merck scientists often working to prepare manuscripts and subsequently recruiting external, academically affiliated investigators to collaborate on the manuscript as guest authors. For instance, rial 078 (a randomized, doubleblind study to investigate whether rofecoxib could delay the onset of Alzheimer disease in patients with mild cognitive impairment) was designed and conducted principally by scientists at Merck. FIGURE 2 shows the title and author list both from draft and published versions of the manuscript describing the trial. Both the title and the authorship were modified to attribute authorship to 3 academically affiliated investigators (first, second, and third authors) on the published article, in addition to the 8 Merck scientists who are attributed authorship on both the draft and published versions of the manuscript (1 Merck scientist is attributed authorship on the draft but not the final manuscript). Of note, only 1 of the 3 academically affiliated investigators who are attributed authorship on the published article was acknowledged in the draft version as a participating investigator in the rofecoxib 078 study group. In an internal e-mail discussing where to publish trial 078 as the draft is circulated, one of the Merck scientists states, “I think you should be the first author since you have done virtually all of the writing.” Although there are minor differences in language and organization between the draft and final versions of the manuscript (particularly in the abstract, as opposed to the text), the results presented are almost identical, reinforcing that the trial itself and the analyses were complete before the academically affiliated investigators were involved in the manuscript.

Guest Authorship and Ghostwriting in Publications Related to Rofecoxib (PDF) [JAMA]
Merck Wrote Drug Studies for Doctors [NYT]