Wyeth chooses profits over ethics

premarinWe’ve all heard of ghostwriters. They get paid to write an article or book for someone else, and that someone publishes the work as his own. (You didn’t think all those famous people who write books are really good writers, did you?)

Ghostwriting gets more sinister when the anonymous writers are being paid by pharmaceutical companies to write scientific papers that supposedly reputable researchers then put their names on.

Until now, my biggest issue with Big Pharma was their underwriting of studies that included their products. At least when those results were published, the authors disclosed that their research was funded by Company X.

But that wasn’t good enough for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, who was cashing in big time a few years ago on the popularity of hormone replacement drugs like Premarin. According to a New York Times story, they hired a ghostwriting company to write papers touting the benefits of hormone replacement therapy and then got doctors to put their names on the papers and submit them for publication in reputable medical journals — without any mention of Wyeth’s participation.

Obviously there are some major problems with this. Doctors and researchers who submit papers for publication are supposed the be the actual authors of those papers, as well as the people who did the work, made the analysis, and reached the conclusions therein. A paper written by some anonymous someone is simply not creditable. Nor is the researcher who would put his or her name on such a paper.

What are we to think, then, knowing our doctors routinely get their information from such papers? They have no way of knowing if their favorite medical journal was duped into publishing a paper secretly commissioned by a pharmaceutical company. And the journal has no good reason to question an apparently legitimate paper submitted by reputable researchers.

Wyeth has, for profit, abused and subverted a system built on trust and professional reputations. How many more pharmaceutical companies are out there doing the same thing? It may be a good thing that doctors and patients view their information sources with a more critical eye, but it’s disturbing to think that once again the public’s health has been put at risk so that a greedy corporation might profit.

5 thoughts on “Wyeth chooses profits over ethics

  1. Augh! One more thing about the medical-pharmaceutical-industrial complex over which to bang my head upon the desk. (And still manage to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.)
    It’s enough to make a retired medical editor/publisher cry. (I’d do the head-banging thing, but I can’t afford to wreck what passes for my desk these days.)

  2. This is the inevitable result of for-profit medicine and corporate non-disclosure procedures.

    For-profit corporations cannot EVER be expected to participate in pure scientific research.

    The Machine can neither be expected to be at all interested in preventing the disease which it causes, then demands outrageous payment to repair.

    Health Care is itself a huge misnomer. Our very lifestyle is toxic. 🙁

    Just when these industries are set to become my closest friends and confidantes (because of my age), all the dirt starts coming out. Doesn’t make a single old lady very happy, I’ll tell you that. Who am I supposed to trust anymore?

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with David re; the state of health care.
    I feel I can’t trust anyone in the healthcare field anymore.
    It amazes me that I pay over 15K a year for my family and still get whacked with
    a 35$ co-pay for a Doctor visit. it pisses me off to no end that Rosita who knows the system pays 0$ for health care, gets free medicine and doesn’t have a co-pay.
    She probably has a car given to her by the state as well to get her back and forth.
    God, this state (MA) sucks.
    (off my soapbox, sorry)
    And MA was supposed to be the model for how it’s done. Sigh. I don’t don’t have much faith in the system anymore either — and at my age, that’s scary as hell. Especially when it’s the politicians, not the medical community, promising they’re going to “fix” things.

... and that's my two cents