As Chief Medical Officer of the largest network of bioidentical hormone physicians in this country, I find the recent news that Wyeth published 26 scientific articles written by ghostwriters terribly disturbing.
They state that “It is common practice to hire writers to help the researchers with their manuscripts.” However, the report showed that the manuscripts were not written for the doctors that actually did the research. They were written and then various doctors were given credit for it. This makes it look like an independent evaluation was done on the hormones instead of research done by the company on their own product. If you are doing the research on your own product, you’re certainly going to make sure the results make you look as good as you possibly can. But, if you publish your own data, others might figure out that you’re trying to make your product look good. So, it appears that Wyeth did their own research and, instead of publishing it on their own, had writers do the manuscripts and give credit to outside physicians. It is unfair to physicians and others that are reading the journals because they don’t realize that the data has come from the company that makes the product, in this case, Premarin and Provera. They make decisions on patient care based on the journal articles they read. When the articles are actually biased but the bias is covered up, it creates potential hazards for the physicians and the patients because no one is getting the whole story.
One of the main criticisms of bioidentical hormone therapy is that “there are no studies on bioidentical hormones.” In fact, there are many excellent publications that demonstrate the benefits of bioidentical hormone therapy. Some of the studies show a greater margin of safety with bioidentical progesterone over the non-bioidentical progestin, Provera. Those that support Premarin and Provera point to a number of studies that were done. However, 26 of them were biased and, what’s worse, the bias was covered up. If Wyeth needed to “give credit” to other physicians for their research on their own products, what were they trying to cover up? What did they know that they weren’t saying? Why weren’t there independent groups that could have demonstrated the benefits of Premarin and Provera?
When you consider how many ads for pharmaceutical companies are in all of the medical journals we use to publish our data, you have to wonder how many more articles are biased. This creates a very difficult climate for physicians to practice medicine – they don’t know who or what to believe.