Taking credit for ghostwritten drug studies is tempting but wrong

What is not a mystery is why [drug manufacturer] Wyeth would orchestrate such a stealth marketing campaign. It did so just as doubts started to emerge about the safety of hormone replacement thearpy (HRT), wrote Regina, Sask.’s the Leader-Post Oct. 3, in a story about drug studies ghostwritten by the manufacturers under the name of university researchers.

“So before the Women’s Health Initiative reported (on the link between breast cancer and HRT in 2002), there were already a lot of people questioning the value of HRT in preventing cardiovascular disease and other things,” said Joel Lexchin, a physician and drug policy professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health.

“I would think Wyeth saw producing these articles as a way of saying, ‘You may have heard about this controversy but you can really ignore it because here we have all these wonderful people who are saying the drug is still very useful.'”

In hindsight, the decision to lend one’s good name to a drug company is at best a conflict of interest and at worst foolishly corrupt, wrote the Leader-Post. But when a drug firm comes calling, the opportunity to get published in a respected medical journal for little or no original research is highly tempting.

“I think the people who do this kind of thing are prostituting themselves for the money, for the prestige of getting published, for the ability to have extra articles added to their CV so they'll get promoted, and so they can get another research grant,” Lexchin said. “The motivations may be different, but this is what people are doing – taking credit for things they haven't done”