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 →
Once upon a time, the drug giant Wyeth Pharmaceuticals wanted to get some medical journal articles published that would emphasize the positives and de-emphasize the negatives about their hormone replacement drugs, Premarin and Prempro. For the sake of clarity, let’s call this “lying”.
What’s a poor drug giant to do? How about getting well-known medical school professors and researchers to submit HRT-flattering articles to medical journals, pretending that they are the sole authors instead of the medical ghostwriters you hired who actually wrote them?