Fill in the blanks medical research

Discussion in 'Health and medical' started by mfg, Dec 2, 2003.

  1. mfg

    mfg Guest

    Note the following paragraph at the bottom of the story. Research done
    by the pharma, with fill in the blanks with the 'researcher's' name.
    MFG


    " 'While most patients will probably be able to achieve target levels
    for
    LDL-C with a statin, treatments such as ezetimibe have a role in
    helping
    patients at risk, who are not reaching treatment targets with a statin
    alone, get to goal.' said (name/title of medical expert)."


    Times Colonist (Victoria),
    Page A06, 01-Dec-2003

    Drug companies get doctors to endorse tainted medical research

    By Tom Spears

    OTTAWA -- A British psychiatrist was doing research on possible
    dangers of
    antidepressant drugs when a representative of one drug manufacturer
    came to
    him with an offer of help.

    You're a busy guy, the company rep said. Here's some background on our
    product.

    He e-mailed Dr. David Healy a finished 12-page review paper with
    graphs and
    footnotes, ready to present at an upcoming conference. And for
    convenience,
    Healy's name appeared as the sole author, even though the psychiatrist
    had
    never seen a single word of it before.

    The drug company wanted its advertising to look like an independent
    study --
    a "massive" scientific fakery top medical journals condemn because it
    prevents doctors from getting the straight facts on medicines they
    prescribe.

    Healy looked a gift horse in the mouth. Fearing the drug company was
    too
    easy on its own multi-million-dollar product, he did his own writing.

    But the ghostwritten paper appeared verbatim at the conference and in
    a
    psychiatric journal anyway -- under another doctor's name.

    Like a movie star who gets a chance to review his own films, the drug
    industry is quietly paying "independent" doctors to sign their names
    to work
    they never did -- and keep their mouths shut.

    Experts say this can undermine the treatment patients receive.

    "That, of course, is unbelievably corrupt and horrible," says Dr.
    Drummond
    Rennie, deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical
    Association.
    "And you don't have to be any more than a small child to realize that
    the
    only reason the person is getting the money is to act as an ad for the
    drug.

    "What does it matter what the trials (drug experiments) say if a
    review is
    twisted to exclude the unfavourable ones and put a spin on the whole
    lot?
    All of which means that your doctor isn't able to know the best
    treatment,
    and so you're not going to get it.

    "I watch the prescriber's hand pretty damn carefully -- not because I
    think
    my doctor's corrupt, but because the information he's got is twisted.
    And
    there's massive evidence for that," he said.

    At York University in Toronto, Dr. Joel Lexchin says he recognizes the
    Healy
    story as a known method for drug makers to ensure they get the right
    kind of
    publicity in the scientific press.

    "This is ghostwriting. This is something that's not all that uncommon
    for
    the drug companies," says the professor at York's School of Health
    Policy
    and Management, who is also an emergency physician at a Toronto
    hospital.

    Drug firms regularly write a review of their own product and go
    shopping for
    a doctor willing to claim this is his or her independent work, for a
    fee of
    several thousand dollars, he says.

    "Sometimes it's pretty benign, but a lot of times it's just a way of
    making
    sure that a positive message about your drug gets out," he says.

    Doctors who receive recruiting pitches from drug companies often
    forward the
    letters to Rennie's medical journal.

    "I suppose I had about 20 at one time," said Rennie, who is also a
    professor
    of medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles.

    "And of course, none of this would happen without the willing
    collusion of
    greedy doctors, clinical researchers. I'm talking about the people you
    look
    up to. The top of the profession."

    What happens when a doctor is caught claiming to be the author of a
    paper
    written by someone else?

    "They're embarrassed. I know, it's disgraceful. They should be fired,"
    Rennie said. "They should be disgraced totally, but they aren't.
    People just
    think it's a bit naughty."

    The British medical journal The Lancet asked in its lead editorial of
    April
    6, 2002: "Just how tainted has medicine become?"

    "Heavily, and damagingly so, is the answer," according to the
    editorial.

    Them's fighting words, like seeing Sports Illustrated attack the
    Olympics
    and the Super Bowl. Yet The Lancet points to increasingly close links
    between researchers and the companies whose products they study.

    Today, medical journals demand all authors sign a document swearing
    this
    really is their own work.

    "This is the kind of thing that largely relies on an honour system,"
    Lexchin
    says.

    But even the honour system can fail. Early this year, the New England
    Journal of Medicine retracted an article on a proposed new treatment
    for
    enlarged hearts it had published in 2002. Some of the paper's
    "authors"
    weren't authors at all, and said the real author had forged their
    signatures
    to the work.

    "There was an egregious disregard of the principles of authorship,"
    the
    medical journal said in a statement.

    It has since tightened its checks on who writes what.

    The questionable tactics spill over into news releases. Here's one
    issued
    Oct. 27 by Cohn and Wolfe, a major Canadian public relations firm, on
    behalf
    of Canadian drug maker Merck Frosst/Schering Pharmaceuticals. The firm
    forgot to proofread:

    " 'While most patients will probably be able to achieve target levels
    for
    LDL-C with a statin, treatments such as ezetimibe have a role in
    helping
    patients at risk, who are not reaching treatment targets with a statin
    alone, get to goal.' said (name/title of medical expert)."

    In all, the release had two pre-written quotes ready for attribution
    to a
    doctor.

    Meanwhile, Dr. David Healy has written a book called Let Them Eat
    Prozac,
    about ghostwriting and its effects in making Prozac, Paxil and related
    antidepressants seem safer than he believes they are.
     
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