This seems to be one of those weeks when a lot of things come together, when patterns that were less clear before become more clear. TPM’s been all over the bogus “grassroots” letters and faxes, written by outfits like Bonner & Associates (which actually forges some of them) and FreedomWorks. And today the Times has a piece on an even more disturbing practice, utilized by drug companies:
Newly unveiled court documents show that ghostwriters paid by a pharmaceutical company played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers backing the use of hormone replacement therapy in women, suggesting that the level of hidden industry influence on medical literature is broader than previously known.
The articles, published in medical journals between 1998 and 2005, emphasized the benefits and de-emphasized the risks of taking hormones to protect against maladies like aging skin, heart disease and dementia. That supposed medical consensus benefited Wyeth, the pharmaceutical company that paid a medical communications firm to draft the papers, as sales of its hormone drugs, called Premarin and Prempro, soared to nearly $2 billion in 2001.
But the seeming consensus fell apart in 2002 when a huge federal study on hormone therapy was stopped after researchers found that menopausal women who took certain hormones had an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. A later study found that hormones increased the risk of dementia in older patients.
I don’t know whether or not paying ghostwriters counts as R&D spending.