Wyeth ghostwriters pushed hormone therapy

Aug. 5, 2009 at 12:54 PM
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MADISON, N.J., Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Ghostwriters paid by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Wyeth worked on dozens of articles published in medical journals under doctors' names, court documents indicate.

Many of the ghostwritten papers -- published in 18 medical journals including The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The International Journal of Cardiology between 1998 and 2005 -- backed the use of hormone replacement therapy in women, the documents cited by New York Times said.

The review articles, which assessed the overall weight of existing studies, emphasized the benefits and de-emphasized the risks of taking hormones to protect against maladies like aging skin, heart disease and dementia, the documents stated.

The supposed medical consensus benefited Wyeth, whose sales of hormone drugs Premarin and Prempro soared to nearly $2 billion in 2001, the Times said.

The seeming consensus fell apart in 2002 when a big federal study found that women who took certain hormones had a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.

A later study said replacement hormones increased the risk of dementia in older patients.

The journal articles did not disclose Wyeth's role in paying for the work. Wyeth's role was discovered by lawyers suing the company, the Times said.

Elsevier BV, the publisher of some of the journals, said it was disturbed by the allegations and would investigate, the Times said.

A Wyeth spokesman said the ghostwritten articles were scientifically sound and subject to peer review by the journals that published them.

Under a policy Wyeth adopted in 2006, listed authors must become involved early in the publication process and any financial assistance by Wyeth or contributions by medical writers must be acknowledged in the published text, the Times said.

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