I’ve been writing about (and against) medical ghostwriting since I first learned about this Big Pharma marketing practice. In fact, my gobsmacked reaction to this very subject is largely why the Ethical Nag site was launched in the first place last year. I had just learned about lawsuits* filed in the U.S. by thousands of women diagnosed with breast cancer – a diagnosis suspiciously linked to their hormone replacement therapy (HRT). And this week, the journal Public Library of Science Medicine (who with the New York Times originally broke the story) published an unprecedented analysis of the issue that caused the link.
The poster child of medical ghostwriting is Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc. (now owned by Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company) who were then the makers of the best-selling HRT drugs on earth, Premarin and Prempro. Wyeth’s ghostwritten medical journal articles attempted to:
- mitigate the perceived risks of breast cancer associated with HRT
- defend the unsupported cardiovascular “benefits” of HRT
- promote off-label, unproven uses of HRT such as the prevention of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, vision problems, and wrinkles.
But first, what exactly is medical ghostwriting? And why is it so bad? Continue reading