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Ghost Writers Pushed Hormone Therapy in Medical Journals

Posted Aug 06 2009 10:09pm

I know. What a shocker. Newly revealed court documents show Wyeth pharmaceuticals paid a “medical communications” company to write papers supporting its hormone drug therapy.

The articles, published in medical journals between 1998 and 2005, emphasized the benefits and de-emphasized the risks of taking hormones to protect against maladies like aging skin, heart disease and dementia. That supposed medical consensus benefited Wyeth, the pharmaceutical company that paid a medical communications firm to draft the papers, as sales of its hormone drugs, called Premarin and Prempro, soared to nearly $2 billion in 2001.

But the seeming consensus fell apart in 2002 when a huge federal study on hormone therapy was stopped after researchers found that menopausal women who took certain hormones had an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. A later study found that hormones increased the risk of dementia in older patients.

The ghostwritten papers were typically review articles, in which an author weighs a large body of medical research and offers a bottom-line judgment about how to treat a particular ailment. The articles appeared in 18 medical journals, including The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The International Journal of Cardiology.

Are you really that surprised? Honestly, I’ve always figured this was going on. Reminds me of all the flap surrounding Dr. Robert Jarvik—pioneer of the artificial heart—hocking Lipitor pills.

Via The New York Times.

Image credit: Dirty Bunny

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