Wyeth Ordered to Disclose Menopause Drug Files

A federal judge in Arkansas has ordered pharmaceutical company Wyeth to release its files concerning ghost written medical journal articles. These articles were used in promoting its menopause drugs Prempro and Premarin. The document production request was sought by the NY Times and PLoS, a medical journal. Wyeth is facing more than 8,000 lawsuits from women who contend the menopause drugs caused their breast cancer. Wyeth had made $2 billion on the menopause drugs prior to a 2002 study that linked Prempro and Premarin with breast cancer. More than 6 million women have taken hormone replacement drugs to treat menopause symptoms such as night sweats, mood swings, and hot flashes. The subject of ghost written medical journal articles is not new but has received renewed attention since last year when Senator Charles Grassley asked Wyeth to reveal the nature of its relationship with ghost writing companies and their marketing efforts concerning menopause drugs. The firms hired to write the articles are typically marketing firms. Once they write the favorable articles about a particular drug, a doctor is hired to sign the article, giving it credibility in the medical community. The practice is highly controversial and Congress is reviewing the practice. This is not the first time Wyeth has been accused of hiring ghost writers as part of their marketing efforts. In 1996, Wyeth hired Excerpta Medica, Inc. to write favorable articles about its notorious diet drug fen-phen. As a result of fen-phen diet drug use, thousands of consumers suffered and died after using the dangerous drug. Fen-phen was subsequently removed from the market and its maker Wyeth was the subject of lawsuits, some of which continue to this day.

Holly Haines