Paxil medical journal articles written by GlaxoSmithKline consultants were prepared using a sophisticated ghostwriting program that allowed doctors to take credit for the work. According to the Associated Press, the ironic name for the ghostwriting program was CASPPER.
As we’ve reported in the past, ghostwriting involves the act of a drug company producing a journal article aimed at either counteracting criticism of a drug or embellishing its benefits. Usually, a drug maker hires a professional writing company to draft the article, and recruits a physician to sign off as the author. Once the article has been published, drug sales reps often present copies of the piece to physicians as evidence that the drug covered in the article is safe and effective. Critics of the pharmaceutical industry claim ghostwriting is a common practice.
Documents detailing the CASPPER program were uncovered by attorneys representing plaintiffs in Paxil lawsuits, according to the Associated Press. Lawsuits allege that Glaxo downplayed Paxil’s association with serious side effects, such as suicide and birth defects.
The documents reviewed by the Associated Press include a company memo from April 2000 which stated the CASPPER program was designed to “strengthen the product positioning and overcome competitive issues.” The memo instructs Glaxo salespeople to approach physicians and offer to help them write and publish articles about their positive experiences prescribing Paxil, the Associated Press said. According to the memo, CASPPER could help physicians with everything from “developing a topic,” to “submitting the manuscript for publication.”
We have long been reporting on the frequent use of ghostwriting by drug makers. For instance, earlier this month we reported that Wyeth-paid ghostwriters authored more than two dozen medical journal articles to promote hormone replacement therapy. According to a report in The New York Times, the articles were published under the bylines of doctors who did not contribute much to the actual piece.
Earlier this summer, we reported that Zyprexa maker Eli Lilly apparently asked doctors to put their names on articles written by company officials in an effort to promote the drug. The company’s alleged strategy to use ghostwritten articles to increase Zyprexa sales was revealed when more than 10,000 pages of internal documents that were unsealed in May in lawsuits alleging Eli Lilly exaggerated Zyprexa’s effectiveness.
Last April, the Journal of the American Medical Association published analysis of court documents uncovered in the course of Vioxx injury lawsuits that found that Merck & Co. employees worked alone or with publishing companies to write Vioxx study manuscripts and later recruited academic medical experts to put their names as first authors on the studies.