Pfizer’s ghostwritten journal articles are still standing, still bogus
By Martha Rosenberg | Online Journal | February 23, 2010
Plagiarism, “unethical research” and unreliable findings from “fabricated data” are grounds for retraction of medical journal articles says the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).
But one look at the US National Library of Medicine database shows the bogus, ghostwritten papers Wyeth (now Pfizer) planted in medical journals in a ghostwriting scandal that reached Congress last year still stand unretracted.
“Is there an association between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer?” asks an unretracted article in the Journal of Women’s Health, 1998 Dec;7(10):1231-46 — a question a fourth grader could answer.
The “author,” William T. Creasman, MD, neither wrote nor initiated the article but was suggested by Jeff Solomon of Wyeth, according to documents posted on the University of California, San Francisco’s Drug Industry Document Archive (Dida).
The article which finds — surprise — no “definitive evidence” of a cancer link was written by an operative of DesignWrite, Wyeth’s marketing firm, named Karen Mittleman.
How about Wyeth’s “The role of hormone replacement therapy in the prevention of postmenopausal heart disease,” in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 2000 Aug;14-28;160(15):2263-72 — a role experts and the FDA agree should be none at all since hormone therapy (HT) increases cardio risks?
Lori Mosca, MD, PhD, agreed to be “author” 11 months after the outline was completed by freelance writer E. Wesselcouch.
And “The role of hormone replacement therapy in the prevention of Alzheimer disease,” in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 2002 Sep 23;162(17):1934-42?
“Attached is the outline for your review in the hope you will agree to author,” wrote Alice Conti, another Wyeth operative, to “author” of record Howard M. Fillit, MD. The outline was written by freelancer Stella Elkabes for $2,300 — see: nice work if you can get it — and HT actually doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s. Oops.
And don’t forget the unretracted, “Mild cognitive impairment: potential pharmacological treatment options,” in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2000 Apr;48(4):431-41, by Barbara Sherwin, Ph.D. Minutes from a Wyeth meeting three months after the article was written by freelance writer F. Karo, a DesignWrite executive asks, “Has initial contact been made with Dr. Barbara Sherwin for Memory paper?” Have we reached the party to whom we are speaking?
It’s a no-brainer that journal editors prefer concealing a suspect article to angering their bosses and authors, and jeopardizing ad and article reprint $ales from drug companies with a this-statement-is-inoperable admission.
And it’s a no-brainer that prestige hungry academic institutions don’t relish scientific egg on their faces or admitting they harbor industry compliant doctors like New York University whose Lila Nachtigall, MD, collaborated with Wyeth on many ghostwritten papers, according to Dida documents.
Eight months after Sen. Charles E. Grassley broke the scientific con, NYU Vice President for Public Affairs Deborah Bohren told the New York Times the university had not investigated because, “we have not received a complaint.” A probe from the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee isn’t a complaint?
So, even though hormone therapy increases the risk of breast cancer by 26 percent and heart attacks by 29 percent, Dr. Creasman’s article which finds no “definitive evidence” of cancer and Dr. Mosca’s “cardioprotective” article stand to misinform a new generation of healers.
And even though hormone therapy doubles the risk of dementia and actually “decreases brain volumes,” according to the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, Drs. Fillit and Sherwin’s papers stand, the latter having been cited 50 times.
Wyeth and DesignWrite did not hide their scheme from doctors.
“We are working on a review paper on diabetes and HRT,” writes Mittleman to William Cefalu, MD, in one memo. Would you “be interested in working with us as the author of this paper?”
They didn’t hide it from journal editors who accept DesignWrite’s role as doctor talent brokers unblinkingly.
Hormone therapy represents one of the largest swaths of preventable injuries to healthy citizens in recent history. But Wyeth/Pizer maintains it doesn’t know how the idea that HT prevented heart disease and dementia got started.
One look at Dida archives shows how the “idea” got started. And the bogus, unretracted papers show how the idea persists.
Martha Rosenberg is a Chicago columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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