The NYT fronts new court documents that shine a light on the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on medical literature. Wyeth, a pharmaceutical company that sold nearly $2 billion of its hormone drugs in 2001, paid ghostwriters to produce 26 scientific papers that advocated the use of hormone replacement therapy in women. The articles were published in medical journals between 1998 and 2005 and all made a point of emphasizing benefits of taking hormones.
The articles, which were signed by top physicians who often did little or no actual writing, failed to reveal Wyeth’s involvement in the process. Of course, the question now is how common is this practice. “It’s almost like steroids and baseball,” said a doctor who has conducted research on ghostwriting. “You don’t know who was using and who wasn’t; you don’t know which articles are tainted and which aren’t.”
This is a very serious infraction of an unwritten code of ethics. Science is an evidence-based discipline, which is not supposed to cook the results to suit a client with deep pockets. We know that the pharmaceutical industry (like the tobacco industry) is capable of manipulating research. But when scientific journals become the mouthpieces for such research — as the doctor says, people can no longer trust what the journals are saying.
Capitalism corrupts. Absolute capitalism presumably corrupts absolutely.