Drug Maker Wyeth Under Fire for Use of Ghostwriters — St. Louis Defective Drug Lawyers

By December 22, 2008Drug Safety

Pharmaceutical company Wyeth is the subject of a Congressional investigation for its use of ghostwriters to publish favorable articles in medical journals, the New York Times reported Dec. 12. The newspaper reported that Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has asked With and its ghostwriting services company to disclose the roles of the doctors and the amounts of payments made for the articles.
The ghostwritten articles were on hormone replacement therapy Prempro, for women undergoing menopause. The drug’s sales dropped sharply after a federal study linked it to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes. However, the ghostwritten articles were favorable to the drug. One that was published more than a year after the federal study said that there was no definitive evidence that the drug caused cancer, and that hormone users had a better chance of surviving cancer.
The senator requested the disclosures after Congress received documents from a personal injury lawyer investigating ghostwriting by Wyeth. According to those documents, Wyeth planned and commissioned at least 10 medical journal articles before those articles were even seen by the doctors who “wrote” them. Revisions by those doctors were subject to Wyeth’s final approval, the documents said. This contradicts medical journals’ ethical standards, which generally forbid ghostwriting, according to the New York Times.
As a Missouri dangerous drug attorney, I am extremely interested in this ongoing story, but not as surprised as I could be. Thanks to my pharmaceutical liability practice, I’ve known for some time that some drug makers are willing to actively mislead the public about their drugs’ safety. In fact, this isn’t the first dangerous drug that has benefited from medical ghostwriting — articles have also been ghostwritten for Redux and Pondimin (also Wyeth products) and Vioxx (Merck). All three of these have since been withdrawn from the market after being linked to serious heart and lung problems.
Prempro is still on the market, but doctors have been advised to prescribe it only at low doses and for patients with severe symptoms. If the Congressional investigation finds that Wyeth knew about its health problems and intentionally covered them up by paying for favorable reports, the drug manufacturer may be hit with a new round of Prempro lawsuits. There is also anecdodal evidence that breast cancer rates in woman over 50 are declining because of reduced use of Hormone replacement therapy to “treat” the symptoms of menopause.Carey, Danis & Lowe represents clients who have been hurt by a prescription drug whose dangers were hushed up in this manner by manufacturers eager to protect their profits. If you believe you may have a defective medication case and you’d like to talk more about your options, please contact our firm online or call us at 1-877-678-3400 to set up a free initial consultation.