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Medical Papers By Ghostwriters Pushed Hormone Therapy 289

Posted by timothy
from the just-keep-a-positive-attitude dept.
krou writes "The New York Times reports on newly released court documents that show how pharmaceutical company Wyeth paid a medical communications firm to use ghost writers in drafting and publishing 26 papers between 1998 and 2005 backing the usage of hormone replacement therapy in women. The articles appeared in 18 journals, such as The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The International Journal of Cardiology. The papers 'emphasized the benefits and de-emphasized the risks of taking hormones to protect against maladies like aging skin, heart disease and dementia,' and the apparent 'medical consensus benefited Wyeth ... as sales of its hormone drugs, called Premarin and Prempro, soared to nearly $2 billion in 2001.' The apparent consensus crumbled after a federal study in 2002 'found that menopausal women who took certain hormones had an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.'"
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Medical Papers By Ghostwriters Pushed Hormone Therapy

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  • by BigGar' (411008) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @04:53PM (#28979441) Homepage
    Well at least the ones that don't stroke out over the nearly endless possibilities...
  • Wyeth isn't alone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lurker2288 (995635) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @04:54PM (#28979465)
    Wyeth may have gotten caught, but don't kid yourself that every major pharma company isn't doing the exact same thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 06, 2009 @04:56PM (#28979475)

    Good! This is one of those cases where the pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable over and above the slap on the wrist the FDA will give them - if that.

  • by Desler (1608317) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @04:59PM (#28979513)
    Why shouldn't they be sued? They willfully defrauded people into buying their products by lying to them about the risks. Isn't this something they should have to pay retribution to their customers for?
  • by Kokuyo (549451) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:01PM (#28979535) Journal

    Yeah right...

    This happens when you trust people who make money when you don't feel well. When will people learn that doctors do not profit from you being healthy? Neither do pharmaceutical companies. Taking medicine in the belief that whoever gave it to you wanted you to feel better is very naive.

    It's stuff like this, and many personal experiences, that make me so cynical toward doctors. It's a sad state of things, but there you have it.

  • Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ardaen (1099611) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:02PM (#28979545)
    Just what we need, drug companies further muddling the waters so not even doctors can tell which treatments are useful or necessary. No wonder we see large movements away from things like vaccinations, which save lives. People are left with too many doubts and questions, fear doesn't lead to good decision making.
  • by Desler (1608317) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:03PM (#28979557)

    Sounds kind of like global warming, where the people screaming most loudly about scientific consensus are also the ones that stand to benefit the most greatly financially.

    Or the ones who scream that there isn't are almost always getting the funding for their research from oil companies.

    Just look at Al Gore and his carbon trading investments.

    What a fucking red herring. What Al Gore and other non-scientists do or don't do have no bearing on the veracity of the research done by the actual climate scientists.

    It all screams conflict of interest.

    But having your funding come from someone like Exxon isn't?

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:03PM (#28979559) Homepage Journal

    This isn't consensus.
    It's people signing of on biased meta-studies.

    No, the people screaming the loudest don't have the most to gain from global warming.

  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:05PM (#28979565) Journal

    You could say the opposing side has a lot to gain from AGW not being true. After all, the cost of reducing carbon emissions is significant to those who produce the most CO2. The difference between AGW and this nonsense is that *climatologists would have to be wrong [climate models and ice cores etc.] *physicists would have to be wrong [infared absorbsion spectrum of CO2] etc. In short, there would need to be a massive conspiracy of thousands of scientists all in on it.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:06PM (#28979591) Homepage Journal

    Your an idiot.
    I know quite a few doctors, and all of them want to see their patients get healthy. It's not like they don't have enough business.

    What does a Doctor gain by prescribing you a treatment that isn't needed?

    I am of course tlkaing about science based medicine, Natural path, homeopaths, acupuncturist and others of there ilk are a different matter. They charge of treatments that do no damn good.

  • by DrLang21 (900992) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:08PM (#28979625)
    I'm curious to know if these journals are real respected peer reviewed publications. If so, they should be reviewing their peer review policies and/or looking at whether or not they were defrauded by the authors.
  • The list (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aaandre (526056) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:09PM (#28979631)

    I wonder if there's a list pharmaceutical company CEOs distribute to their immediate families...

    Dear Mom, here's a list of medications made by pfeiser that I wouldn't take, even if my doctor recommended them.

    Your loving son, Jeff.

    That would be a great read on wikileaks.

  • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:10PM (#28979649)
    Actually, lawyers are the ones who brought the truth to light in the first place:

    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.

    I do hope they win money from Wyeth. Heck, I don't even mind Wyeth pushing their agenda in the literature, if the science is good it should stand on its own. But being evasive and publishing with a hidden financial agenda is not cool, especially when lives are at stake.

  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:11PM (#28979655) Journal

    This is precisely why in science, real science, we have the scientific method which requires that experiments/studies etc. be repeatable. All it would take is for these fraudulent claims to be tested and it is over for the fools who tried to usurp the system.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:13PM (#28979673) Journal

    It's odd that the anti-climate change crowd will essentially assert that climatologists are part of some even cabal to destroy the economy, and yet essentially are siding with a group of multinational corporations whose vested interest is in keeping everyone vomiting as much CO2 into the atmosphere for as long as possible.

  • by Nightspirit (846159) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:21PM (#28979753)

    Unless the people retesting are the same ones who submitted it in the first place (either via ghost writers, sham corporations, etc). Then it becomes like artificial sweeteners, where you have a mountain of evidence stating that it is safe (from the corporations, or people funded by the industry) and some research stating that it isn't safe, and the end result is people are confused and no one knows what to really believe.

  • I am a physician (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:33PM (#28979885)

    And I can tell you frankly that the medical profession is split in two. There are people who are in it for the human aspect - usually the doctors. Then there's the people who are in it for the money: The pharmaceutical companies.

    This is not surprising, coming off another recent study done by (and now we learn that it was paid for) and published in a magazine owned by a subsidiary of Merck.

    Just the fact that these companies are allowed to advertise on TV directly to patients is disgusting. But ask your doctor if XYZ is right for you, because you don't need it at all, or there's probably some cheaper similar drug whose patent has expired and costs 1/4 the price, but if you waste your doctor's time enough he'll write the prescription just to get you out of his office with a smile on your face. After all if he says "NO", you might not come back.

    Just the fact that an HIV patient will literally die bankrupt, at $1000+ per month for the meds. Unless you're very rich, you won't be able to keep THAT up for very long, and when you run out of money - so sorry, we can recommend a hospice for you.

    Pharmaceutical companies scream about billions of dollars in research, yet they can afford all that printed material for doctors, 5 star hotels for doctors for "seminars", pens, calculators, TV air time, etc. Yet some companies still make money with Aspirin - yes the name belongs to Bayer, but anyone can make and sell acetyl-salicylic acid - the patent expired years ago.

    No, big pharma loves the protections patent law gives them, and if they can completely distort the market and throw actual science out of the window WHO CARES so long as it increases sales.

    That's why we have Cochrane studies, where we DOCTORS look back at what we're doing and seeing if it REALLY IS effective. A new study from my country published by a close friend of mine suggests that having your blood pressure at 140/90mmHg gives NO INCREASED RISK of heart disease or stroke. But studies paid for by big pharma INSIST (and they've convinced the American Heart Association) that your blood pressure has to be UNDER 120/80. In fact, they want TEENAGERS to start taking blood pressure medication. Hey, at $100-200 per patient per month, SO WOULD I. But we know full well where the unethical branch of the medical sciences is...

    The above comment is my opinion as a 3rd world physician, since I have to watch people die because they can't afford the few medications that DO work as advertised (and are thus even MORE expensive).

  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:35PM (#28979907)
    No, no , no, no. You got it all wrong. They should be fined $80,000 for each $1 of product they sold, just like the RIAA got.
  • by ChefInnocent (667809) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:39PM (#28979941)
    I think suing isn't going far enough. I think the person/team behind this and the board of directors should be criminally prosecuted. To fabricate data in pursuit of a few extra dollars while willfully allowing people to die because of the fabrication is wrong on a very fundamental level.
  • Defensive Medicine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rcb1974 (654474) <richardballantyneNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:46PM (#28980001) Homepage

    What does a Doctor gain by prescribing you a treatment that isn't needed?

    Defensive Medicine (CYA for doctors) [wikipedia.org]

  • Suggested Remedy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eddy (18759) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:50PM (#28980047) Homepage Journal

    Beyond any direct fines or other remedies, just halve the patent times on all their patents across the board for each infraction. Sixteen years of protection left on Xyliklopper? Now it's eight.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:51PM (#28980063)

    I respectfully disagree; I think corporate death penalty is the appropriate route to go.

    All assets of the company are seized by the government, all patents are made public domain, liquid assets (cash and similar instruments) are distributed amongst the victims, the rest is auctioned off to pay for court costs.

    Then, the former shareholders of the company can sue the board of directors and anybody else who no longer has corporate immunity, for causing all of their investment to go away because the company committed crimes against humanity.

    This would put every single company on notice: You exist to serve the people; you are allowed to eck out a profit insofar that you do not commit crimes against us. Companies are only people on paper, and I have no compunctions about putting them to death for crimes against the people they are supposed to serve.

  • by Rakishi (759894) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @06:13PM (#28980327)

    Not curing disease, not curing underlying causes... but maintenance treatment of symptoms, and underlying causes of those symptoms.

    This isn't star trek, you can't take out a magical pill out of your pocket that makes a woman grow a new kidney. Hell, you we most of the time can't even make drugs to cure simple symptoms without causing horrible side effects. Don't blame pharmaceutical companies for the simple fact that science doesn't understand most of what's going on.

    The job of the pharmaceutical companies isn't to choose the best treatment plan for patients, that's what doctors are for. Quite often that treatment plan involves things such as lifestyle changes, surgery, therapy and so on that have nothing to do with drugs companies.

    Most drugs aren't cures for the simple fact that if a cure exists you don't need other drugs. If a cure doesn't exist you do need drugs. If you need drugs then you should try to make them the best and most pleasant drugs possible. You can't blame drug companies any more than you can blame high crime neighborhoods on police for having too many officers assigned to them.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @06:14PM (#28980333) Homepage

    This happens when you trust people who make money when you don't feel well. When will people learn that doctors do not profit from you being healthy? Neither do pharmaceutical companies. Taking medicine in the belief that whoever gave it to you wanted you to feel better is very naive.

    Yeah, that's why my doctor has encouraged me to eat better and exercise so that I don't have to take anti-cholesterol or blood pressure medication.

  • by MMC Monster (602931) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @06:30PM (#28980485)

    I am a physician, and my mother has hypertension. Damn straight I'm going to medicate her. I'm giving her a diuretic and an ACE inhibitor. $4 per drug per month, for a total of $96 per year. Just like I prescribe to my patients. Treating hypertension prevents strokes. It's not one study. It's dozens of studies, over decades of statistics. A since study may have a P value of .95, stating that it is statistically significant. That means that there's a 1 in 20 chance that it is just plain wrong. I'm banking on the decades of data. Wake me up when the UKPDS changes their recommendations to not treat hypertension.

    The fact of the matter is, my patients are as cost conscious as I am, since they know what it's like to pay for trade name drugs when the generic equivalents are covered by the insurance companies. They love that after a first visit with me they can cut there monthly bills by $100 or more. They tell their friends, and I get more patients.

    Big Pharma has screwed the medical industry. Us doctors (as a group) are doing it, too, as are the trial lawyers.

    And the general public, who feels that docs should be sued into oblivion for the littles mistakes. You know what? Mistakes happen. Deal with it. If you would rather docs retire early rather than pay ridiculously high malpractice premiums, so be it.

    My wife required a high risk OB during her last pregnancy. Pretty hard to find in our state, since the malpractice for obstetricians is ridiculously high here.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @06:34PM (#28980525) Homepage

    This is one of those cases where the pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable over and above the slap on the wrist the FDA will give them...

    Then there are insurance companies hauling bus loads of loud, fat people to public meetings on health care. Industry busy trying to undermine public discussion and fudge research results. Big oil has been doing the same thing only a lot longer. When I was doing research for DoE they were paying for research later used to undermine the conservation programs put in place in the wake of the '74 oil embargo. And it worked. Between the push by the oil companies and the Saudis increasing production, DoE's direction on oil policy was changing rapidly by '82. Less than 10 years after lines at the gas pump people were buying vehicles the size of a Bangladesh apartment.

    There's a fine line between engaging in freedom of speech and manipulation. Actually, it's not all that fine. At some point we're going to need to take a hard look at whether the artificial person that is a corporation has the same right to free speech as an individual. Unless you're fabulously wealthy, corporations have a major advantage in getting their free speech packaged and delivered to market. Then there are efforts, like this one, of deliberate deception. Where are the consequences? Why aren't there stunning, quarterly number tanking, breath-taking fines for this kind of behavior? If one of us got caught doing something similar, we could face fraud charges.

  • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Thursday August 06, 2009 @07:31PM (#28981053) Homepage Journal

    I disagree with the idea of fining the perpetrators.

    These are white collar RICO Act violations involving fraud by mail and conspiracies that cross state lines. The individuals involved should be identified by the FBI and charged by the US Attorney General. Each one of them has conspired to defraud healthcare providers and bona fide researchers, in a manner that has caused the deaths of some USA citizens and placed many more at high risk of cancer or other diseases.

    There is no way in hell that the USA is going to get decent health care, no matter what Congress does, until these kinds of white collar crimes in the healthcare industry are addressed for what they are: felonies that indirectly cause death and suffering to the general public.

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @07:32PM (#28981059)

    I have mod points, but I want to answer this one because there is no +1 Unvarnished Truth option.

    I'm sad now.

  • by ragefan (267937) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @07:51PM (#28981221)

    ...and take their own "medicines".

  • by budgenator (254554) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @08:10PM (#28981389) Journal

    Why fine the company? The science was very probably accurate;

    Michael Platt, the president of DesignWrite, wrote that the company âoehas not, and will not, participate in the publication of any material in which it does not have complete confidence in the scientific validity of the content, based upon the best available data.â

    of course they left out that the content glorified the reduction of trivial symptoms and the consideration of potentially fatal side effects were beyond the scope of the paper part. A PR/ghostwriting company can't get published if a respected clinician doesn't sign-on as an author, the real answer is to tell someone like Dr. Gloria Bachmann, she's not going to be published anymore for being a drug company's whore.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @08:24PM (#28981483) Homepage

    I'd like to see murder or similar charges placed against the people involved. If I did anything that indirectly caused the death of any single individual, I doubt anyone would have any problems with charging me with some sort of death related crime. Why are these jackholes immune? Corporate officers gave orders and directions and approval for these acts that ultimately resulted in the deaths of people. Had they not done so, they would not be responsible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 06, 2009 @09:59PM (#28982023)

    They are immune because they are insanely wealthy and big time political donars/bribers.

  • Re:I agree. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by walt-sjc (145127) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @11:22PM (#28982475)

    Also a Corporate death sentence, forced liquidation with the proceeds going to the government.

    Yes, fuck the investors over. You know - those fat cat investors... It's not like my retirement fund is at stake. Oh - wait. Shit. I guess it is.
    (I just LOVE poorly thought out "shoot from the hip" solutions.)

  • Re:I agree. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eivind Eklund (5161) on Friday August 07, 2009 @05:22AM (#28984113) Journal

    It's not "fuck the investors over" - it is "ensure that the pressure is towards behaving ethically". With anything like decent risk management, you shouldn't have more than some low, single digit percentage in this anyway; investors often lose all their investment when a company goes bankrupt.

    I'm also somewhat disturbed that you feel that what you should be thinking about after you find you've invested in murdering people is "What's going to happen to my money?"

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