Medical Publisher to Review Claim About Article’s Writer
By DUFF WILSON
Elsevier, a medical publisher, said Friday that it would investigate a senator’s recent allegation that one of its journals published an article on hormone replacement therapy that was improperly ghostwritten by a drug company promoting the product.
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, had raised questions about the May 2003 “Editors’ Choice” article in Elsevier’s American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The article, signed by Dr. John Eden, an Australia academic, was among articles Mr. Grassley has cited that were favorable to drugs made by the pharmaceutical company Wyeth.
Mr. Grassley, a member of the Senate Finance Committee who is investigating drug company influence on doctors, contends that Wyeth commissioned the articles and had them ghostwritten by a medical writing firm. Only after the articles were conceived and under way did the firm line up doctors to put their names on them, Mr. Grassley contends.
“The charges made by Senator Grassley’s office with regard to the article published in 2003 by Dr. Eden are a significant concern to The Journal and Elsevier,” Glen P. Campbell, the senior vice president for Elsevier’s US Health Sciences Journals unit, said in a statement. “As with any charge of misconduct or inappropriate publishing acts, The Journal has launched its own investigation into the claims of ghostwriting and undisclosed financial support.”
The journal article, published more than a year after a landmark federal study linked Wyeth’s Prempro hormone product to breast cancer in women, said there was “no definitive evidence” the hormones caused breast cancer.
Mr. Eden’s article did not mention any involvement by Wyeth or DesignWrite, the medical writing company hired by Wyeth. He acknowledged the contributions of two people for “editorial assistance” but did not disclose they worked for DesignWrite. The standard industry guidelines for medical journals require the authors to identify all significant contributors.
In an e-mail message to The New York Times last week, Mr. Eden said he stood by the article’s contents but declined to elaborate. “I cannot comment as these matters are before the Senate,” he said in the message. “I am also aware of ongoing lawsuits around these matters.” Mr. Eden is an associate professor at the University of New South Wales.
In a statement Friday, Wyeth said the academic authors were not paid by Wyeth and had “substantive editorial control” of the articles. Mr. Grassley said in a statement that he appreciated the publishing company’s response and would continue his own investigation.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
Out of control. You think it's bad when you read about the FDA and the CDC. I was quickly reminded that it's pervasive across all areas in the medical community.