How did hormone replacement therapy become so popular for American women going through menopause? Well, it turns out that pharmaceutical giant Wyeth helped write many of the supportive scholarly articles about its own hormone replacement drugs. The New York Times revealed this morning that the manufacturer of drugs like Premarin and Prempro paid ghostwriters to pen research articles about the hormone replacing drugs, which were then signed off on by a doctor and printed in reputable places like The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Sales of Wyeth's female hormone replacing drugs have fallen by 50 percent since 2001, when a Women's Health Initiative study linked menopausal hormone treatment to an increased risk of cancer. But before that damning study, the company sold more than $2 billion worth of hormone drugs to thousands of American women.
Feeling a little sick?
According to the NYT, Wyeth paid $25,000 to a writing company called DesignWrite for one of 26 articles the big pharma company funded over the years. DesignWrite put together an article enthusiastically supporting hormone therapy and emailed first an outline and then a draft to Dr. Gloria Bachmann. The doctor said the work was "excellent" and when The Journal of Reproductive Medicine printed the final piece in 2005, Dr. Bachmann was listed as the author, with no mention of DesignWrite or Wyeth.
Although the DesignWrite chief, Wyeth and Dr. Bachmann defend that particular article in the NYT piece, this ghostwriting is very troubling. Journal articles are supposed as objective, scholarly research that doctors can rely on to guide their diagnoses and treatment of patients. Having Wyeth secretly underwrite a journal article about Premarin raises the same ethical flags as having newspaper reporters on the pharmaceutical company's payroll.