Publisher to probe Wyeth ghostwriting

A journal publisher says it's looking into allegations that an article on hormone replacement therapy was written under the influence of pharma. Elsevier, which produces the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is responding to questions from Sen. Charles Grassley--he of the integrity-in-pharma letter-writing campaign--about an article in support of Wyeth drugs that had been linked to breast cancer by a major federal study.

Grassley claims that Wyeth hired a medical writing firm to draft that article and others supporting hormone replacement therapy. After the ghostwriting was well under way, Grassley says, the drugmaker found doctors to put their bylines on them. "The charges ... are a significant concern to The Journal and Elsevier," an Elsevier SVP 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."

Dr. Charles Eden, whose byline appeared on the article published more than a year after the Women's Health Initiative study, told the New York Times that he stands by the article. "I cannot comment as these matters are before the Senate," he wrote in an email to the newspaper. "I am also aware of ongoing lawsuits around these matters."

For its part, Wyeth says the bylined authors weren't paid by Wyeth, and that they had "substantive editorial control" over the articles. We'll have to wait and see what Elsevier concludes.

- read the NYT story