In the not so distant past, we told you about Merck paying Elsevier to publish phony journals. Well, now, there is a new reason to be a little more skeptical about what you read in medical journals. Apparently, Wyeth pharmaceuticals paid ghost writers to write 26 articles (mostly review) which were published in 18 different journals supporting the use of their homorne replacement therapies from 1998 through 2005. Sales for these pharmaceuticals soared as many women were placed on these drugs due to downplayed side effects and exagerrated benefits.
In 2002, a large federal study was cancelled when it became apparent that these same hormone treatments were correlated to increased breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. A later study even showed that the treatments were also linked to increased dementia in elderly patients.
Unfortunately, it appears that Wyeth is not the only pharmaceutical company to use ghost writers to draft up articles supporting their treatments or to get physicians to sign their names to articles they may not have written completely (or even partially) themselves.
If you are interested in finding out more about this scandal, you can check out The New York Times or Stephen Colbert (for a funnier, if not less accurate depiction). He doesn’t actually start talking about hormones until around 4:50, but it’s interesting to see how this phenomena has infiltrated the popular media.