Why doctors who pretend to write journal articles should be punished

I was relieved to see on a CBC News report that somebody’s finally calling a spade a spade when it comes to medical school academics who pretend to be the actual authors of research papers about prescription drugs. Two Canadian law professors interviewed for the piece actually used the word “fraud”.  They then called for legal sanctions against any academics who lend their names to medical journal articles that are actually ghostwritten by pharmaceutical industry writers. Here’s what their report had to say on this:    Continue reading

The haunting of medical journals: how ghostwriting sold hormone replacement therapy

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. 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 recently 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

Stealth marketing: how Big Pharma tries to shape medical news

Although Jeanne Lenzer’s article about stealth marketing in Reporting On Health is actually meant for other journalists, it reminds me that we consumers should all be more savvy when it comes to evaluating medical news. Before my own heart attack, for example, I pretty well swallowed any medical miracle breakthrough news without question.

But because I now take a fistful of powerful cardiac medications everyday, I have become gradually both aware of and alarmed by Big Pharma marketing, and especially about what Dr. Marcia Angell herself (for over 20 years the Editor-in-Chief at the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine) calls “… its pervasive conflicts of interest that corrupt the medical profession.”

In fact, I have absolutely no way of knowing which of my cardiac meds were prescribed for me based on flawed research or tainted medical journal articles that were funded and ghostwritten by the very drug companies who stand to gain by paying for positive outcomes.  And, worse, neither do my doctors. This is allowed to happen in part because of what we now know as stealth marketing“.

Continue reading