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Big Pharma's Ghostwriters

Why Are These Fraudulent Papers Unretracted?

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

According to Science Times[1], the Tuesday science section in the New York Times, scientific retractions are on the rise because of a “dysfunctional scientific climate” that has created a “winner-take-all game with perverse incentives that lead scientists to cut corners and, in some cases, commit acts of misconduct.”

But elsewhere, audacious, falsified research stands unretracted–including the work of authors who actually went to prison for fraud!

Richard Borison, MD, former psychiatry chief at the Augusta Veterans Affairs medical center and Medical College of Georgia, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a $10 million clinical trial fraud[2] but his 1996 US Seroquel® Study Group research is unretracted.[3] In fact, it is cited in 173 works and medical textbooks, misleading future medical professionals.[4]

Scott Reuben, MD, the “Bernie Madoff” of medicine who published research on clinical trials that never existed, was sentenced to six months in prison in 2010.[5] But his “research” on popular pain killers like Celebrex and Lyrica is unretracted.[6] If going to prison for research fraud is not enough reason for retraction, what is?

Wayne MacFadden, MD, resigned as US medical director for Seroquel in 2006, after sexual affairs with two coworker women researchers surfaced[7], but the related work is unretracted and was even part of Seroquel’s FDA approval package for bipolar disorder.[8]

More than 50 ghostwritten papers about hormone therapy (HT) written by Pfizer’s marketing firm, Designwrite, ran in medical journals, according to unsealed court documents on the University of California–San Francisco’s Drug Industry Document Archive.[9] Though the papers claimed no link between HT and breast cancer and false cardiac and cognitive benefits and were ghostwritten by marketing professionals not doctors, none has been retracted.

Pfizer/Parke-Davis placed 13 ghostwritten articles[10] in medical journals promoting Neurontin for offlabel uses, including a supplement to the Cleveland Clinic[11] but only Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews and Protocols has retracted the specious articles.[12]

Nor is the phony science just a product of “Big Pharma.” In 2008, JAMA was forced to print a correction stating that authors of an article arguing for a higher recommended dietary allowance of protein were, in fact, industry operatives. [13] Sharon L. Miller was “formerly employed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,” and author Robert R. Wolfe, PhD, received money from the Egg Nutrition Center, the National Dairy Council, the National Pork Board, and the Beef Checkoff through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said the clarification. Miller’s email address, in fact was smiller@beef.org, which should might have been the JAMA editors’ first tip-off.[14] The article has also not been retracted.

Martha Rosenberg’s is an investigative health reporter. Her first book,  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, has just been released by Prometheus books.

Notes.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/17/science/rise-in-scientific-journal-retractions-prompts-calls-for-reform.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

[2]  Steve Stecklow and Laura Johannes, “Test Case: Drug Makers Relied on Two Researchers Who Now Await Trial,” Wall Street Journal, August 8, 1997

[3] Richard Borison et al., “ICI 204,636, an Atypical Antipsychotic: Efficacy and Safety in a Multicenter, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Patients with Schizophrenia,” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 16, no. 2 (April 1996): 158–69

[4] Alan F. Schatzberg and Charles B. Nemeroff, Textbook of Psychopharmacology (New York: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2009) p. 609

[5] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-medical-madoff-anesthestesiologist-faked-data

[6] Scott Reuben et al., “The Analgesic Efficacy of Celecoxib, Pregabalin, and Their Combination for Spinal Fusion Surgery,” Anesthesia & Analgesia 103, no. 5 (November 2006): 1271–77.

[7] http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-42840768/astrazenecas-sex-for-studies-seroquel-scandal-did-research-chief-bias-the-science/

[8] http://www.lifesciencesworld.com/news/view/12152 (BOLDER study)

[9] Martha Rosenberg, “Flash Back. The Troubling Revival of Hormone Therapy. Consumers Digest, November 2010

[10] Kristina Fiore, “Journals Aided in Marketing of Gabapentin,” MedPage Today, September 11, 2009

[11] United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, Report on the Use of Neurontin for Bipolar and Other Mood Disorders,http://i.bnet.com/blogs/neurontin-09513078512.pdf

[12] P. J. Wiffen et al., “WITHDRAWN: Gabapentin for Acute and Chronic Pain,” Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews and Protocols 16, no. 3 (March 16, 2011); P. J. Wiffen et al., “WITHDRAWN: Anticonvulsant Drugs for Acute and Chronic Pain,” Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews and Protocols no. 1 (January 20, 2010);

[13] http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/299/24/2891.extract

[14] http://www.obesity.org/newsletter/nl200407.html