The New York Times reports that Wyeth, the big pharma company, has developed a novel system for producing medical research. The Times article states that Wyeth hires out the research to a ghost writing firm, DesignWrite. That subcontractor takes the idea from Wyeth, drafts the article targetted for a particular journal, and then recruits a prominent "medical researcher" to sign it.
The Times states:
One article was published as an “Editors’ Choice” feature in May 2003 in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, more than a year after a big federal study called the Women’s Health Initiative linked Wyeth’s Prempro, a combination of estrogen and progestin, to breast cancer. The May 2003 article said there was “no definitive evidence” that progestins cause breast cancer and added that hormone users had a better chance of surviving cancer.
The issue of ghostwriting for medical journals has been raised in the past, involving various companies and drugs, including the Merck painkiller Vioxx, which was withdrawn in 2004 after it was linked to heart problems, and Wyeth’s diet pills, Redux and Pomdimin, withdrawn in 1997 after being linked to heart and lung problems.
One top medical researcher with more than a thousand articles to her credit, when confronted with evidence gathered by Senator Grassley's senate committee that she had signed on to ghostwritten articles plugging Wyeth drugs, said "It kind of makes me laugh that with what goes on in the Senate, the senator’s worried that something’s ghostwritten. I mean, give me a break."
And that's the gold standard in attitude!