FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Best Research Money Can Buy

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

Where did the medical community get the idea that Vioxx, Trovan and Baycol were safe and the benefits of Prempro, Neurontin and bisphosphonates outweighed their risks? From research published in medical journals written by drug companies or drug-company funded authors.

Scratch the surface of many blockbuster drugs that went on to be discredited, or even withdrawn as risks emerged, and an elaborate “publication plan” emerges, developed by the drug company’s marketing firm. For example, at least 50 articles promoting hormone replacement drugs like Prempro were planted in medical journals by Pfizer’s (then Wyeth) marketing firm DesignWrite, according to documents posted on the University of California, San Francisco’s Drug Industry Document Archive.

“Is There an Association Between Hormone Replacement Therapy and Breast Cancer?” one such article in the Journal of Women’s Health, planted by DesignWrite, is titled[i]–concluding that there is not. A second paper, supplied by DesignWrite and appearing in the Archives of Internal Medicine,[ii] is titled “The Role of Hormone Replacement Therapy in the Prevention of Postmenopausal Heart Disease.” A third, also from DesignWrite, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is titled “The Role of Hormone Therapy in the Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.”[iii] Though the marketing firm’s “science” is egregiously flawed–HT has strong links to breast cancer, heart disease[iv] and Alzheimer’s–the papers have not been retracted.

Another example is Parke-Davis/Pfizer’s publication plan to make seizure drug Neurontin become the prescribed drug of choice for migraines, bipolar disorder and other conditions for which it was not
approved. In just three years, Parke-Davis planted 13 ghostwritten articles in medical journals promoting off-label uses for Neurontin including a supplement to the prestigious Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine that Parke-Davis made into 43,000 reprints for its reps to disseminate.

Researching, writing and submitting papers to medical journals–and reworking and finessing them if accepted–is a demanding, time consuming job which drug companies have made into pay dirt. Court obtained documents at the UCSF Drug Industry Document Archive show drug companies’ “publication plans” for their products–elaborate grids with the names of journals where papers have run, are slated to run, have been submitted and have been resubmitted, the marketing firms apparently not taking “no” for answer. Do the journals know they are part of such machinations?

As hot new drug classes are rushed to market and net billions in a few years only to crash and burn from undisclosed risks and lawsuits (think: SSRI antidepressants, atypical antipsychotics, long acting beta agonist asthma drugs (LABAs) and antiepileptic drugs) some blame journals for publishing marketing disguised as science and serving as de facto medical stenographers. In addition to ad sales, journals can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from reprints of articles that the drug companies want to disseminate.

Under criticism, medical and scientific journals have tried to improve their disclosure of authors’ financial links to industry–but not too hard. Often the disclosures are relegated to a barely readable paragraph linking authors identified by initials not names to 60 or more drug companies. Worse, the disclosures don’t appear in abstract databases like PubMed but are hidden behind a financial firewall available only to paid subscribers who have access to the full articles.

But planting drug industry-funded papers that extol new drugs or smooth over safety concerns is too lucrative for journals or drug companies to quit. The latest case is TNF (tumor necrosis factor) blocker drugs such as Humira, Remicide, Enbrel and Cimzia which are the drug industry’s new profit center now that so many blockbuster pills have gone off patent.

The conditions such biologic drugs treat–rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and plaque psoriasis–are rare but drug companies now call them underdiagnosed and offer quizzes to help patients self diagnose. Watch out. Worse, papers written by drug industry-funded authors are appearing in journals to minimize the many dangerous side effects that accompany TNF blockers because they suppress the immune system. Recently research by drug industry-funded authors has appeared in medical journals to dispel data linking TNF blockers to increasing incidences of hospitalizations, malignancies,[v] cardiovascular events and Herpes zoster. Looks like another publication plan.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

This article was part of a TED lecture by Ben Goldacre, MD. Martha Rosenberg’s newly published book, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health (Prometheus) has been favorably reviewed by PLOS Medicine and the medical community.

Notes.

[i] 1998 Dec; 7(10): 1231-46

[ii] 2000 Aug; 14-28; 160(15): 2263-72

[iii] 2002 Sep 23;162(17):1934-42?

[v] Maria Suarez-Almazor has received speaker fees from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche and consultant fees from Amgen

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2780484/

 

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail