How is it possible that half of all gynecologists are still prescribing hormone replacement therapy to their patients for uses that are clearly unsupported by evidence – despite the alarming warnings of the largest randomized, placebo-controlled trial of HRT ever performed?
This reality is “curious”, according to Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman at Georgetown University Medical Center, in a new study* examining 340 medical journal articles about HRT. Her research was published yesterday in the journal, Public Library of Science Medicine.
But even more curious are her findings that the majority of the doctors who have written pro-HRT papers for medical journals have been funded by the very drug companies that manufacture hormone replacement drugs.
These companies were financially hurt by 2002 results of the massive Women’s Health Initiativestudy, which meant an almost immediate catastrophic loss of sales revenue for manufacturers of all HRT drugs. Prescriptions dropped by 80% – a major blow to companies like Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, whose HRT drugs Prempro and Premarin had earned the company over $2 billion just one year earlier. (That still puts the net gain well ahead for the company, who has now settled a third of the pending lawsuits from women who developed breast cancer while on Prempro, after the company set aside over $772 million to resolve legal claims, according to Bloomberg).
Arlene Weintraub is a senior health writer at BusinessWeek, writing on both science and the business of health. She has won a whack of journalism awards, including from the Association of Health Care Journalists, but it’s her book, Selling the Fountain of Youth,that caught my eye. In particular, she questions the “expert advice” of celebrities pushing questionable anti-aging advice. And few celebs are better at flogging questionable anti-aging advice than Suzanne Somers. Continue reading →
I had to go have a little lie-down after I read the The New York Timesstory this week about the scandalous practice of medical ghostwriting. Here’s how Danish researcher Dr. Peter Gøtzsche describes medical ghostwriting: “Ghostwriting occurs when someone makes substantial contributions to a manuscript without attribution or disclosure. It is considered bad publication practice in the medical sciences, andsome argue it is scientific misconduct. At its extreme, medical ghostwriting involves pharmaceutical companies hiring professional writers to produce papers promoting their products- but hiding those contributions and instead naming academic physicians or scientists as the authors.“
Here’s an extreme example of extreme medical ghostwriting. The New York Times and the journal Public Library of Science Medicine have outlined recent court documents revealing that ghostwriters paid by drug giant Wyeth Pharmaceuticals played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers published in medical journals that backed the use of hormone replacement therapy in women. That supposed medical consensus benefited Wyeth directly, as sales of its HRT drugs Premarin and Prempro soared to nearly $2 billion by 2001. Continue reading →