When Pfizer coughed up $2.3 billion to settle criminal allegations that it promoted off-label use of Bextra, it was the biggest such settlement in history. But Pfizer is not the only drug company to have been nabbed for such activities.
Five years ago, Parke-Davis forked over $430 million to settle a similar suit involving Neurontin.
Now it has come to light that Parke-Davis took advantage of the half-baked policies of certain journals regarding ghostwriting and disclosure of the financial ties of authors to promote off-label utilization of the latter drug.
Between 1997 and 2000, these journals published 13 articles promoting off-label use of Neurontin that were ghostwritten and funded by Parke-Davis without disclosing such arrangements, according to Jenny White, a research analyst at UCSF, who spoke at last months’ Peer Review Congress.
The journals have beefed up their disclosure policies since that time, White added.
To reach these conclusions, White and colleagues reviewed internal industry documents regarding Neurontin that had been archived at her school’s Drug Industry Document Archive. They subsequently asked the journals to delineate current and former policies regarding ghostwriting, conflict of interest and so on.
White’s group identified 24 articles and correspondences with editors that had either been produced with support from grants that Parke-Davis or by Parke-Davis ghostwriters.
At least 13 of these articles were published in journals that included no disclosure of the fact that Parke-Davis had a role in producing the paper. Only 2 of these articles revealed that the authors had received honoraria from Parke-Davis.
These journals “generally had less stringent requirements [regarding disclosures] than those where articles were not published,” according to White. None of them had a policy regarding disclosure of ghost authorship.
White recommended that peer-reviewed journals adopt uniform policies to prohibit such shenanigans in the future.