As we find out from an article a week or so back by Duff Wilson in the New York Times--
--Sen. Charles Grassley's (R-IA) campaign to expose corrupt practices at the medicine-pharma interface has netted an interesting internal document from Wyeth--analogous to some ghostwiting-related memos I discussed in HOOKED.
Grassley's team has unearthed a Wyeth memo detailing a campaign to sell its hormone combo Prempro, even after a major study revealed its association with increased breast cancer risk. The memo lists topics, titles, and outlines for a series of articles to be written by the staff of DesignWrite, a medical information company, with the goal of attracting putative academic "authors" for each article and then placing them in journals.
Grassley has demanded information from Wyeth and DesignWrite regarding the so-called authors and payments made to them. Wyeth denies that any of them received any money.
Reactions to this round of charges are interesting. Wyeth accuses Grassley of recycling outdated arguments, saying that besides not being paid, the academic "authors" had full editorial control over the final articles. This is of course the position of deniability that any drug firm can adopt with reference to ghostwriting. The putative author can, of course, exercise editorial control. Most are "too busy" and so elect not to, or to change only a few minor bits of language. Whistleblowers like David Healy have previously revealed how the attempt to actually exert serious editorial control quickly leads to the withdrawal of the invitation to be the "author" or to receive the opportunity in the future.
Of the two "authors" named by Wilson, one, Dr. John Eden, director of the Sydney Monopause Center in Australia, was purported author of an "Editor's Choice" feature in the May 2003 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, denying that "definitive evidence" existed tying Prempro to breast cancer. Dr. Eden refused any comment for the article. The documents state that the draft manuscript was written by DesignWrite. The journal says it is investigating.
The second named "author" is Dr. Lila E. Nachtigall, director of the Women's Wellness Center at NYU. Dr. Nachtigall denied to Wilson that anyone had written any of her 1000 articles or three books, and denied any recollection of being provided with a draft or outline. (She also suggested that the U.S. Senate had more important things to worry about than to come pestering her.)
My hope is that each of these instances will be investigated to the hilt, and that if any of these academics are found to have actually engaged in ghost-authoring, their respective institutions should make a severe example of them--a penalty notably absent from previous instances of this offense, despite the fact that all agree that ghostwriting is the most inexcusable of all ethical lapses related to Pharma.