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Wyeth Ghostwriting Archive

In July 2009, a US federal court decision resulted in the release of approximately 1500 documents detailing how articles highlighting specific marketing messages written by unattributed writers, but “authored’ by academics, are strategically placed in the medical literature—a practice known as ghostwriting. To release these documents, PLOS Medicine, represented by the public interest law firm Public Justice, and The New York Times, acted as “intervenors” in litigation against menopausal hormone manufacturers by women who developed breast cancer while taking hormones. 

PLOS Medicine argued that sealed documents identified during the discovery process for the court case, which demonstrated the practice of ghostwriting, should be made available to the public. As PLOS Medicine Chief Editor Ginny Barbour stated in the motion to intervene, ghostwriting “gives corporate research a veneer of independence and credibility” and may “substantially distort the scientific record”... “threaten[ing] the validity and credibility of medical knowledge.”

On July 24, 2009, U.S. District Judge William Wilson, Jr., in Little Rock, Arkansas, granted the motion to make discovery materials public as of July 31, 2009.

PLOS created this web page to make the released documents publicly available without delay. The documents are now available in indexed, searchable form at the Drug Industry Documents Archive at the University of California, San Francisco. Browse the documents.

Documents related to the proceedings of the court case

Blog posts on the court case from PLOS Medicine's blog, Speaking of Medicine

Further reading
  • Additional blog posts on ghostwriting in medical literature can also be found on Speaking of Medicine
  • An article in the New York Times on Aug 5, 2009, discusses some of the ghostwritten papers.
  • In September 2010, the first academic analysis of the 1500 documents unsealed in the litigation was published in PLOS Medicine: Fugh-Berman AJ (2010) The Haunting of Medical Journals: How Ghostwriting Sold ‘‘HRT''. PLOS Med 7(9): e1000335. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000335