"UW Linked To Ghostwriting"

"As fears were growing about the link between hormone therapy and breast cancer, a drug company paid the University of Wisconsin to sponsor ghostwritten medical education articles that downplayed the risks, records obtained by the Journal Sentinel show.

The five articles were funded by Wyeth, the company that made the top-selling hormone therapy products. The articles, published in 2001, appeared under the names of doctors who specialized in diseases common to menopausal women, but actually were written by professional writers paid by the company.

The articles came shortly before a long-term $1.5 million arrangement between Wyeth and UW to educate doctors and patients around the country about hormone therapy. The initiative promoted the benefits and softened the risks of drugs that produced sales of more than $1 billion a year.

The five articles alone reached up to 128,000 doctors and other clinicians who could get medical education credit by reading the reports and taking a quiz.

'These articles contributed to widespread prescription of hormones to women who did not need them, but who were put at risk of blood clots, breast cancer, and other adverse effects,' said Adriane Fugh-Berman, associate professor of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center, a pharmaceutical industry critic."

John Fauber and Meg Kissinger report for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel August 15, 2009.

Monday, August 17, 2009