Wyeth paid university for ghostwritten articles

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

John Fauber and Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that Wyeth paid the University of Wisconsin to sponsor “ghostwritten medical education articles that downplayed the risks” of female hormone therapy – one of that company’s most notorious missteps.

Amid mounting concern regarding their safety and shortly before the discovery that Wyeth’s progestin and estrogen products were considered dangerous enough to bring a massive clinical trial screeching to a halt, five ghostwritten articles, paid for by Wyeth, were used in University of Wisconsin continuing medical education materials which promoted the benefits and downplayed the risks of the treatments.

The Wyeth company line is that the articles weren’t bad or misrepresented science, and that the titular authors of the pieces were given “substantial editorial control” over the “scientifically accurate content.”

William Heisel focused on DesignWrite (the ghostwriters behind Wyeth’s pieces) and suggested that reporters check out their own local institutions and ask questions about where money is coming from, ask if the big names of local scientists are helping to hide their dubious connections and to actively question the impartiality of the science itself.

Heisel also put together an entertaining piece regarding just how tickled some researchers are to put their name on ghostwritten work.

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