Federal Court Grants Public Access to Evidence of Wyeth’s Ghostwriting

In his July 24 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Bill Wilson, Jr., granted public access to evidence that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals “ghostwrote” medical articles regarding its hormone therapy drug Prempro, which a national study has shown increases a woman’s risk of stroke, heart attack, blood clots, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The Arkansas federal judge 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.

Thousands of women throughout the United States have filed lawsuits against Wyeth and Pfizer alleging that their hormone therapy drugs caused the women to get breast cancer. Evidence of the ghostwriting was discovered during the course of this ongoing litigation, however, the documents were initially designated “confidential” by Wyeth.

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 fought Wyeth continuously to try to get “confidential” designation removed and thereby have the evidence of the ghostwriting – where Wyeth would write the article supporting use of its own drug but then pay a prestigious doctor to put his name on the article to give the appearance of neutrality and objectivity – unsealed and available to the public. The hope is that with this knowledge, the public will become more conscious of a practice that may be more common than the average consumer believes, and will also gain vital information about the actual safety of the drug in question.

Pogust Braslow & Millrood is at the forefront of the hormone therapy litigation, and while this ruling is certainly a victory for the public, the battle continues against Wyeth and Pfizer on behalf of hundreds of women who suffer from the tragic side-effects of hormone therapy drugs like Prempro. If you have any questions about this decision or about the hormone therapy litigation in general, please feel free to contact us for more information.