Again, Heisel focuses on the deposition of Wyeth ghostwriter Karen Mittleman and related documents and memorandums. He lists the names of some key ghostwriters to look out for, then details a number of specific cases when production and marketing concerns clearly outweighed science, at least as far as the pharmaceutical manufacturers were concerned.
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.
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The course promoted hormone therapy and started just months after a clinical trial was ended early because researchers found that women who took hormone therapy drugs were at increased risk for breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots.
For six years, “thousands of doctors from around the country took the online course that was funded entirely by a $12 million grant from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which makes the hormone therapy drugs used in the study, Prempro and Premarin.”
The paper reports that “Even after the course was no longer available, the Web site and course material remained on the Internet, accessible to consumers and doctors. The university dropped the site Jan. 15, one day after the Journal Sentinel began questioning UW officials about the propriety of the program.”