by Max Brantley
Public Justice, a public interest law firm based in Washington, has filed a motion in federal court in Little Rock to unseal records in the lawsuits against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals over hormone replacement drugs such as Prempro.
The motions contend that the drug company was "ghostwriter" for medical journal articles touting the drug and recruited academics to lend their names to the work. A news release on the court intervention suggests one-sided presentations under the guise of serious scholarship presents hazards to consumers.
Public Justice, the national public interest law firm headquartered in Washington D.C., is asking an Arkansas federal court for public access to evidence about Wyeth Pharmaceuticals’ “ghostwriting” of medical articles about its own hormone replacement therapy drugs, like Prempro, that a national study says increase a woman’s risk of stroke, heart attack, blood clots, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
In motions filed today in a case on behalf of women who have been injured by Prempro and other hormone therapy drugs, Public Justice asked the court to unseal evidence that Wyeth routinely failed to disclose its role in preparing medical journal articles promoting Prempro and in recruiting academic authors to put their names on the articles for publication.
Public Justice represents PLoS Medicine, a medical journal published by the non-profit Public Library of Science, in In re Prempro Liability Litigation.
“We believe ghostwriting is a deceitful and manipulative practice that threatens the integrity of any medical journal and can cause serious harm to consumers of prescription drugs,” said Virginia Barbour, Chief Editor of PLoS Medicine. “Without honest authorship, doctors who rely on medical journals for the most up-to-date information about the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs won’t be able to judge for themselves whether an article is credible or whether it presents only one side of the story.”
The ghostwriting evidence in this case, which is ongoing, is not publicly available due to a blanket confidentiality order that allows Wyeth to shield from public inspection any material that Wyeth itself deems to be “confidential.”
The New York Times reported last December that the secret documents include evidence of a “mammoth” ghostwriting campaign involving Prempro. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has requested more information about the material as part of a congressional investigation into drug industry influence on doctors, according to the Times story.
“Wyeth can’t keep these materials from the public unless it can show good cause for secrecy,” explained Amy Radon, Public Justice’s Goldberg, Waters & Kraus fellow and lead attorney for PLoS Medicine. “We believe no good cause exists here, especially given the enormous public interest in these Materials and the public health and safety concerns implicated when a drug company fails to reveal its role in authoring a medical journal article touting its own product.”
In addition to Radon, Public Justice’s legal team consists of Public Justice Staff Attorney Leslie Brueckner and Morgan “Chip” Welch of Welch and Kitchens, LLC in North Little Rock, Ark.
*Read the Motion to Intervene at http://publicjustice.net/Repository/Files/Prempro_BriefinSupportInterveneFINALV2_4.PDF
*Read the Motion to Unseal at http://publicjustice.net/Repository/Files/Prempro_BriefinSupportUnsealFINAL_5.PDF
*Read The New York Times article about Wyeth’s ghostwriting practices at