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Journal-Sentinel hunts ghosts, Badgers and health care conflicts of interest

Start lining up the awards for the series on conflict of interest published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this year.

Excerpts of the latest:

ghosts.jpg

“As fears were growing about the link between hormone therapy and breast cancer, a drug company paid the University of Wisconsin to sponsor ghostwritten medical education articles that downplayed the risks, records obtained by the Journal Sentinel show.

The five articles were funded by Wyeth, the company that made the top-selling hormone therapy products. The articles, published in 2001, appeared under the names of doctors who specialized in diseases common to menopausal women, but actually were written by professional writers paid by the company. badger.jpg

The articles came shortly before a long-term $1.5 million arrangement between Wyeth and UW to educate doctors and patients around the country about hormone therapy. The initiative promoted the benefits and softened the risks of drugs that produced sales of more than $1 billion a year.”

Batmanannual14.pngThe article also showed two faces of health care on this issue. Excerpt:

“The company’s ultimate goal is to sell more drugs, said Steven Miles, a physician and professor at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

“These ghostwritten articles are advertising masquerading as scientific reviews,” he said. “It’s dishonest.”

One of the listed authors, Leon Speroff, then a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health Sciences University…said the practice of ghostwriting remains commonplace, and he defended it.

“There is nothing dishonest about it,” he said.

He laughed at the idea that someone might be offended by the lack of transparency.

“If you don’t like the way it works, that’s your business,” Speroff said.”

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