How are hockey-playing goons the same as “puzzled” medical journal editors?

hockey calgary fightI’ve often said to my hockey-mad son Ben that we could end on-ice fighting in hockey (not, incidentally, our national sport, but arguably our Canadian obsession) if only the National Hockey League would put me in charge for just one week. But the folks who do run the NHL clearly have no appetite for banning hockey fighting, or they would have acted to end it by now.

Despite their feeble protests about the unacceptability of fighting and the known dangers of career-ending concussions, team owners tolerate cheap shots by beefy goons who spear, hit, and drop their gloves to fight. The League accepts it, the owners accept it, the players accept it, and the fans apparently love it.

There is, alas, no organizational will to ban violence on the ice.

And much like hockey goons, medical journal editors could end the appallingly unethical and dangerous practice of medical ghostwriting in one week, but these editors clearly have no appetite for banning ghostwriting in their journals, or they would have acted to end it by now.

There is, alas, no organizational will to ban medical ghostwriting. Continue reading

Merck paying off 3,100 families for heart attack/stroke deaths linked to Vioxx painkilling drug

vioxx blueDrug giant Merck & Co. is paying the families of more than 3,100 Vioxx painkiller users who died of heart attacks and strokes that were blamed on the drug. Merck introduced Vioxx in 1999 but withdrew it from the market in 2004 when a study showed the drug doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. By 2007, Merck had set up a fund of $4.85 billion (yes, that’s billion with a ‘B’)  to cover claims of death and lesser injuries, after reserving $1.9 billion to fight over 26,600 Vioxx lawsuits in court. Houston attorney Mark Lanier observed at the time:

“We don’t know any drug right now with this number of deaths associated with it. This is a very sad chapter in the tragedy of pharmaceutical companies gone wild.” 

And – quelle surprise! – Vioxx turns out to be one of countless prescription drugs that have been fraudulently promoted in industry-funded ghostwritten articles in medical journals.    Continue reading

50-100% of medical journal articles paid for by Big Pharma?

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any more slimy in the wonderful world of Big Pharma-funded medical journal articles, along comes last week’s editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.  Their September 9th editorial claims that somewhere between 50% and 100% of articles on drugs that appear in journals are ghostwritten, according to Dr. David Healy, a psychiatrist at the University of Cardiff in Wales and a critic of the drug industry’s influence on physicians’ drug prescribing habits. Dr. Healy further claims:

“Ghostwriting ‘crept up on’ the medical profession and became so common by the mid-90s that even senior researchers came to accept it as an ethical practice. Other critics of the practice agree, claiming that many researchers will put their name on a document as primary author even if they just edited it — or only read it and made no changes.

“If you have people like me who say they won’t do this, the pharmaceutical industry can easily go elsewhere and find a person who will.” Continue reading