Successful intervention by PLoS Medicine and New York Times in Federal court grants public access to evidence that drug company ‘ghostwrote’ medical articles about hormone therapy drug, Prempro

Today  an Arkansas federal judge granted public access today to evidence that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals “ghostwrote” medical articles regarding its hormone therapy drug Prempro.  Along with the New York Times,  PLoS Medicine, represented by the law firm Public Justice, had sought to intervene in a court case of women bringing an action in relation to Prempro and other hormone therapy drugs, in order to unseal papers that allegedly show that Wyeth failed to disclose its role in preparing medical journal articles promoting Prempro and in recruiting academic authors to put their names on the articles for publication—that is that they practised ghost  writing.

The judge’s decision does not take effect until July 31, 2009 ie  Wyeth has until next Friday to decide whether to appeal his order.

The press release from Public Justice is below:

July 24, 2009

Contact:  Deborah Mathis at (202) 679-2652 or dmathis@publicjustice.net


Evidence of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals’ Ghostwriting Campaign for Prempro Unsealed

An Arkansas federal judge granted public access today to evidence that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals “ghostwrote” medical articles regarding its hormone therapy drug Prempro, which a national study has shown increase a woman’s risk of stroke, heart attack, blood clots, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

The evidence has been under seal in an ongoing federal lawsuit filed on behalf of victims of Prempro.  Public Justice, a national public interest law firm headquartered in Washington D.C., sought access to the evidence on behalf of PLoS Medicine, a medical journal published by the non-profit Public Library of Science (PLOS).  Along with the New York Times, PLOS had moved to interevene in the case to unseal the ghostwriting documents because the public has powerful interest in knowing the truth about the drug companies’ conduct and the safety of its drugs.

“We are thrilled by the Court’s decision to stop Wyeth’s attempt to hide evidence of its ghostwriting,” said Amy Radon, Public Justice’s lead attorney for PLoS Medicine. “Public health and safety is put at serious risk when a drug company fails to reveal its role in authoring a medical journal article touting its own product.”

The ghostwriting evidence in the Prempro litigation, which is ongoing, was under seal due to a confidentiality order that permitted Wyeth to shield from public inspection any material that Wyeth itself deemed to be “confidential.”

In his July 24 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Bill Wilson, Jr., held that there was no good cause for secrecy and ordered that the documents be made publicly available as of 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 31.  The New York Times reported last December that the secret documents include evidence of a “mammoth” ghostwriting campaign involving Prempro.  U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has this material as part of a congressional investigation into drug industry influence on doctors, accordingto the Times story.

“Wyeth did not even attempt to show good cause for keeping these documents secret,” said Morgan “Chip” Welch of Arkansas’ Welch and Kitchens, LLC.  “Judge Wilson’s decision will undoubtedly save lives.

To read the District Court’s order, go to

http://publicjustice.net/Repository/Files/Prempro_OrderUnsealing_072409.pdf
To read Public Justice’s brief in support of PLoS Medicine’s motion to intervene, go to

http://www.publicjustice.net/Repository/Files/Prempro_BriefinSupportInterveneFINALV2_4.PDF

To read Public Justice’s brief in support of PLoS Medicine’s motion for access to the materials in this case,

go to http://www.publicjustice.net/Repository/Files/Prempro_BriefinSupportUnsealFINAL_5.PDF

To read the New York Times article about Wyeth’s ghostwriting campaign, go to

http://publicjustice.net/Repository/Files/NYTimes-WyethGhostwriting.pdf

To learn more about Public Justice and its Access to Justice Campaign, visit

http://www.publicjustice.net/Key-Issues-Cases/Access-To-Justice.aspx

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Public Justice is America’s public interest law firm, supported by – and calling on — a nationwide network of  more than 3,000 of the nation’s top lawyers to pursue precedent-setting and socially significant litigation. It has a wide-ranging litigation docket inthe areas of consumer rights, worker safety, civil rights and liberties, toxic torts, environmental protection, and access to the courts. Public Justice is the principal project of the Public Justice Foundation, a not-for-profit membership organization headquartered in Washington, DC, with a West Coast office in Oakland, California. The Public Justice web site address is www.publicjustice.net.

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2 Responses to Successful intervention by PLoS Medicine and New York Times in Federal court grants public access to evidence that drug company ‘ghostwrote’ medical articles about hormone therapy drug, Prempro

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