Ghosts In The Research

As a doctor, I rely on research to inform my decisions and help formulate treatment plans for my patients. Research tells me what works and what doesnt' work. In addition, when doing acupuncture, I stand on the shoulders of many generations of doctors who have come before me, and I can rely on their experimentation and observations to guide me.

And when it comes to research on Western nutrients and chiropractic advances, I am assured that the research is free from the influence of big money. Because, let's face it, nobody is becoming a millionaire by selling Vitamin B.

Pity the poor MD, then. There has been mounting evidence for years that the research that MDs use to decide which drugs to prescribe has been tainted. And, finally, the crows are coming home to roost.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has revealed that up to 10 percent of the articles in the most prestigious medical journals were written by unacknowledged, industry-funded ghostwriters. Some 7.8 percent of named authors of 630 articles admitted contributions from ghostwriters who weren't named, with the highest percentage found in the New England Journal of Medicine (10.9 percent) and the lowest in Nature Medicine (2 percent).

In another story just reported by the AP, GlaxoSmithKline commissioned sales reps to recruit doctor-authors for ghostwritten articles supporting Paxil use. And this story followed another revelation, that Wyeth used ghostwritten reviews to push its hormone replacement therapy.

You remember hormone replacement therapy, right? The anti-cancer, anti-heart disease miracle cure for women that turned out to cause breast cancer and stroke?

And just to top it all off, it appears that the pharma companies are turning to ghostwriters once again, in this case to have the FDA change its rules to allow pharma to use journal articles (you know, the ones they wrote) to push their drugs for off-label uses.

You know, I really wish I was making this stuff up. But I'm not. And the biggest problem is that nothing will ever come of these revelations. Like the big banks, Big Pharma is too big and too wealthy to fail.

All I can do is try to remind people that the companies that make drugs are far more interested in your wallet than your health.

But I'm a tiny voice in a very large, and largely craven, industry.