Unsealed papers prove Wyeth was behind articles

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Court documents show that Wyeth, maker of Premarin and Prempro, was involved in the writing of 26 scientific papers that supported the use of hormone replacement therapy in women, reports Natasha Singer of The New York Times.

The documents linking the pharmaceutical giant to the articles were found by lawyers suing Wyeth and became public at the request of The Times and PLoS Medicine, an open-source medical journal.

The court documents provide a detailed paper trail showing how Wyeth contracted with a medical communications company to outline articles, draft them and then solicit top physicians to sign their names, even though many of the doctors contributed little or no writing. The documents suggest the practice went well beyond the case of Wyeth and hormone therapy, involving numerous drugs from other pharmaceutical companies.

The discovery suggests “the level of hidden industry influence on medical literature is broader than previously known.” A Times graphic shows the process used by Wyeth to get the papers written.

The articles appeared in a range of journals, including The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The International Journal of Cardiology and several journals published by Elsevier. The papers, most of them review articles, did not disclose Wyeth’s involvement.

Adriane Fugh-Berman writes about the situation on Speaking of Medicine, the PLoS Medicine community blog and an earlier post details the court request to have the documents unsealed.

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