20 Oct – The Ohio medical board concluded that pain physician William D. Leak had performed “unnecessary” nerve tests on 20 patients and subjected some to “an excessive number of invasive procedures,” including injections of agents that destroy nerve tissue. Yet the finding, posted on the board’s public website, didn’t prevent Eli Lilly and Co. from using him Continue reading ‘Disgraced Docs Push Drugs for Big Pharma’
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The New York Times reports that pharmaceutical company ghostwriters played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers that backed the use of hormone replacement therapy in women, suggesting that the level of hidden industry influence on medical literature is broader than previously known.
The articles, published in medical journals between 1998 and 2005, emphasized the benefits and de-emphasized the risks of taking hormones to protect against maladies like aging skin, heart disease and dementia. That supposed medical consensus benefited Wyeth, the pharmaceutical company that paid a medical communications firm to draft the papers, as sales of its hormone drugs, called Premarin and Prempro, soared to nearly $2 billion in 2001.
But the seeming consensus fell apart in 2002 when a huge federal study on hormone therapy was stopped after researchers found that menopausal women who took certain hormones had an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. A later study found that hormones increased the risk of dementia in older patients.
The ghostwritten papers were typically review articles, in which an author weighs a large body of medical research and offers a bottom-line judgment about how to treat a particular ailment. The articles appeared in 18 medical journals, including The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The International Journal of Cardiology.
The articles did not disclose Wyeth’s role in initiating and paying for the work. Elsevier, the publisher of some of the journals, said it was disturbed by the allegations of ghostwriting and would investigate.
The documents on ghostwriting were uncovered by lawyers suing Wyeth and were made public after a request in court from PLoS Medicine, a medical journal from the Public Library of Science, and The New York Times.
A spokesman for Wyeth said that the articles were scientifically accurate and that pharmaceutical companies routinely hired medical writing companies to assist authors in drafting manuscripts. (Story here)
Although the reporting of this story by the NYT is new, the practice is not. According to former Eli Lilly marketing executive John Virapen, fake stories and reports are part of the overall marketing strategy throughout the pharmaceutical industry. Because the industry funds the FDA, CDC and NIH officials, no one investigates the corruption because they profit from them.
As a result, thousands of people are unnecessarily killed or injured from adverse drug reactions. In the case of Prozac or hormone replacement therapy, the eventual lawsuits are merely part of the cost of doing business. If a drug like Prozac generates $10 billion in profits over 20 years and generates $4 billion in lawsuits (with confidentiality agreements), the $6 billion net profit makes it worthwhile.
The problem is not that the pharmaceutical industry harms and kills patients millions of patients for profit, but that there are no competent investigative agencies or politicians who aren’t paid to ignore the mayhem.
In this related story, pharmaceutical lobbyists have successfully pressured White House officials to stand by their behind-the-scenes deal to block Congressional efforts to extract more than their agreed-upon $80 billion.