Zyprexa maker Eli Lilly apparently asked doctors to put their names on articles written by company officials in an effort to promote the drug. According to Bloomberg.com, the company’s alleged strategy to use ghostwritten articles to increase Zyprexa sales was revealed when more than 10,000 pages of internal documents were unsealed last month in lawsuits that allege Eli Lilly exaggerated the drug’s effectiveness.
According to a Bloomberg.com report, Zyprexa is Eli Lilly’s top-selling drug. In 2002, the company embarked on a campaign to boost its sales. The documents regarding the allegedly ghostwritten articles were unsealed in the course of Zyprexa lawsuits filed by insurers and pension funds seeking to recoup money spent on the drug.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers claim documents regarding the Zyprexa strategy reveal company officials believed that ensuring medical journal articles presented Zyprexa study results in a positive light was one way for Lilly to reach its sales goal. Attorneys for the parties suing Eli Lilly allege that one way the company made sure that Zyprexa was presented favorably was to have articles that appeared to be written by leading researchers “ghostwritten”.
According to company emails, one such ghostwritten article wassubmitted to journals such as Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry, Bloomberg.com said. “The paper for the Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry supplement has been completed and sent to the journal for peer review,” Kerrie Mitchell, an employee of the public relations agency Cohn & Wolfe, wrote in a Feb. 23, 2001, e-mail to Michael Sale, a Lilly marketing official. “We ‘ghost’ wrote this article and then worked with author Dr. Haddad to work up the final copy.” Haddad, a researcher at Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust in the U.K., was listed as the article’s lead author, Bloomberg.com said.
The unsealed documents also indicate that Eli Lilly issued guidelines for ghostwritten articles in a document entitled “Medical Press: Pre-Launch Feature Outline.” Other unsealed documents also indicate that Eli Lilly complained to journal editors when publication was delayed and submitted rejected articles to other outlets.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, other drug makers have been the subject of ghostwriting accusations in the past, and industry critics claim it is a common practice. For example, last April the Journal of the American Medical Association published analysis of court documents published uncovered in the course of Vioxx injury lawsuits 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. Late last year, Wyeth faced allegations that favorable articles about its hormone replacement medications that appeared American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Primary Care Update for OB/GYNs were ghostwritten.
One expert interviewed by Bloomberg.com said that the use of ghostwritten articles by drug makers like Eli Lilly had created “a huge body of medical literature that society can’t trust.”