Wyeth Ghostwriting Allegations Investigated

A publisher is investigating allegations that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals paid ghostwriters to author favorable articles about its hormone replacement medications that appeared in one of its medical journals.  According to The Wall Street Journal, publisher Elsevier decided to look into the allegations, which were originally made public by Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) in a letter he wrote to Wyeth earlier this month.

In his December 12 letter to Wyeth, Grassley wrote that the Senate Finance Committee had obtained documents from recent lawsuits involving Wyeth’s hormone drugs that relate to articles published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Primary Care Update for OB/GYNs.  Grassley wrote that he was concerned that researchers listed as authors of those articles weren’t deeply involved in their writing.  

According the Senator, Wyeth may have paid DesignWrite Inc. of Princeton, New Jersey to write the articles. Grassley also wrote a similar letter to DesignWrite seeking information about its involvement in the allegedly-ghostwritten articles.

According to The Wall Street Journal Health Blog, one of the journal article in question was published a year after the Women’s Health Initiative linked <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/prempro">Prempro hormone-replacement product to an increased risk for breast cancer. The May 2003 article, which was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said there was “no definitive evidence” for that link.

Elsevier publishes the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  According to The Wall Street Journal, the publishing company said  Grassley’s charges “are a significant concern” and added, “as with any charge of misconduct or inappropriate publishing acts, The Journal has launched its own investigation into the claims of ghostwriting and undisclosed financial support.”

Other drug makers have been the subject of ghostwriting accusations in the past, and industry critics claim it is a common practice.  For example, last April an analysis of court documents uncovered in the course of Vioxx injury lawsuits found that Merck & Co. employees worked alone or with publishing companies to write Vioxx study manuscripts and later recruited academic medical experts to put their names as first authors on the studies. According to the analysis, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Merck’s involvement in producing the data wasn’t disclosed in many cases.

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