Tag Archives: plos medicine

Did PLoS suffer from COI in ghostwriting article?

Remember that examination of Wyeth (now Pfizer)’s ghostwriting practices that ran in PLoS Medicine a few weeks back? Well, Pharmalot’s Ed Silverman reports that things got a fair bit weirder, thanks to an accusation from Wyeth/Pfizer that the article’s author suffered from her own undisclosed conflict of interest. The article mentions author Adriane Fugh-Berman was a paid expert witness in the trial against Wyeth through which the documents were exposed, but never discloses that she’s still engaged as such.

Silverman got in touch with Fugh-Berman, who said she would clarify her status.

Things get a bit muddier when company representatives allege that the journal was intentionally using the article fodder for an anti-Pfizer lawsuit. Silverman does a good job of explaining the whole situation.

Related: Say what? Pfizer calls PLoS out on conflict of interest

How ghostwriters sold hormone replacement

Writing in PLoS Medicine, Adriane J. Fugh-Berman, M.D., demonstrates the cynical art of “publication planning” and the use of academic journals as an avenue for unregulated drug promotion by showing, with the help of documents from a major drug manufacturer, how ghostwriting was used to sell hormone replacement therapy.

The documents in question come from the lawsuits against Wyeth over the development of breast cancer during treatment with the hormone replacer Prempro, and were brought to light, according to Fugh-Berman, “when PLoS Medicine and The New York Times intervened in the litigation. Both intervenors successfully argued that ghostwriting undermines public health and that documents proving the practice should be unsealed.”

Fugh-Berman was a paid expert witness in the trial, and thus was familiar with the documents before their release. Her conclusion?

… the pharmaceutical company Wyeth used ghostwritten articles to mitigate the perceived risks of breast cancer associated with HT (menopausal hormone therapy), to defend the unsupported cardiovascular “benefits” of HT, and to promote off-label, unproven uses of HT such as the prevention of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, vision problems, and wrinkles.

According to Fugh-Berman, the effects of this careful campaign seem to have outweighed the preponderance of evidence, at least in the minds of some doctors.

Today, despite definitive scientific data to the contrary, many gynecologists still believe that the benefits of HT outweigh the risks in asymptomatic women. This non-evidence–based perception may be the result of decades of carefully orchestrated corporate influence on medical literature.

Through the course of the article, Fugh-Berman lays out the entire ghostwriting/marketing process, complete with instructive details and damning examples. There’s a lot to take in, but you’ll emerge with a far better understanding of the mundane mechanics that make ghostwriting work.


Open access to research recognized this week

It’s Open Access week! Time to honor the principle that scientific research should be made available for free online immediately upon publication, a principle that’s served health journalists pretty well over the past few years. Universities, government organizations and other groups around the world will celebrate by opening up more information and drawing attention to the principles that drive the open access movement.

Open Access flagship reaches milestone

On Oct. 19, PLoS Medicine, openaccessa prominent and pioneering open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science, turned five. The Public Library of Science is a nonprofit funded by charging authors publication fees, and by private donors. In addition to PLoS Medicine, it publishes six other journals covering biology and medical science.

PubMed goes Canadian

One of the greatest triumphs of open access has been PubMed Central, in which all NIH-funded research is made available for free, usually within 12 months of publication. Both the U.S. and U.K. have their own PubMed systems, and now Canada’s getting one too. PubMed Central Canada, created by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Research Council’s Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine, will take its first steps, launching its manuscript submission system as part of the week’s festivities.