Merck Used Ghostwriters for Vioxx Studies

April 18, 2008 03:45 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The pharmaceutical giant’s use of ghostwriters for studies of a painkiller withdrawn from the market four years ago has led to criticism and doubts of the studies’ authenticity.

30-Second Summary

Merck has come under fire for using ghostwriters on some of its studies, raising questions about how much work the doctors credited with writing them actually did in contributing to the pieces.

A Journal of the American Medical Association case study examined documents Merck released during lawsuits over Vioxx, a pain medication pulled from the market in 2004. The case study’s authors were plaintiffs’ consultants in the Vioxx lawsuits. The study suggests that numerous Vioxx studies were written by ghostwriters Merck employed, but other doctors signed off on them as their own work.

Merck has denied any wrongdoing in a statement on its Web site, and has called the findings “just plain wrong.”

But Dr. Joseph S. Ross of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine said that the article suggests an already common notion: that medical ghostwriting is a regular practice at Merck and other pharmaceutical companies.

For some in the health care industry, the use of ghostwriters seems to violate guidelines outlined by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.

“It seems many of the so-called ‘authors’ of these ghost authored papers should have been listed not as authors but as ‘participating investigators’ or ‘scientific advisors,’” wrote a blogger called MedInformaticsMD.

Vioxx was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after a Merck-sponsored study found a great risk of “serious heart problems” to the participants.

Headline Link: Merck employed ghostwriters for Vioxx studies

Reference: JAMA articles on medical research ghostwriting (PDF)

Reactions: Responses to the JAMA articles

Background: "The Rise and Fall of Vioxx"


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