Thursday, October 14, 2010

More from Carl Elliott, on Crybaby Companies

In case you haven't had your daily serving of Carl Elliott, here is a recent piece on the Bioethics Forum blog from the Hastings Center:

Target for Elliott's ire is Wyeth, whose practices were in turn the target of a recent article by Adriane Fugh-Berman in PLoS Medicine (addressed in the post, Wyeth sent a nasty letter to the journal taking righteous umbrage at Dr. Fugh-Berman's failure to disclose fully her own conflicts of interest. She stated that she had been paid as an expert witness in anti-Wyeth litigation. The letter's accusation: that she failed to say that she was still being paid as an expert witness.

Elliott adds up Wyeth's known misdeeds--first off, working as hard as it did to conceal the risks and harms related to its diet pill combo, Fen-Phen; and more recently, the ghostwriting of papers promoting hormone therapy--and compares them to Fugh-Berman's track record--using the wrong verb tense--and finds that the scales of justice tip over pretty heavily against Wyeth.

I myself might not have been quite as quick with the verbal barbs as my esteemed colleague Carl. Those of us who throw stones in the conflict-of-interest arena need to be prepared to receive similar missiles hurled back at us, and must do our level best to be squeaky-clean, both to maintain needed credibility and also to serve as good examples of ethical behavior. (Anyone old-fashioned enough to remember what that was all about?) Dr. Fugh-Berman quite appropriately admitted the use of incorrect verb tense and corrected the record in response to Wyeth's letter:

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