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Wyeth scrutinized over drug reviews

A senator says it paid to have articles ghostwritten.

Wyeth paid a medical communications company to ghostwrite medical-journal articles about its hormone-therapy products and seek academic scientists to sign them as primary authors, a U.S. senator said.

Documents from lawsuits suggest the drugmaker hired DesignWrite Inc. of Princeton to draft manuscripts related to Wyeth's hormone-therapy products and breast-cancer risks, according to letters released yesterday from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R., Iowa) to the companies. Wyeth makes the hormone-replacement drugs Prempro and Premarin and has major operations in the Philadelphia area.

Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has been examining drugmakers' efforts to influence doctors and scientists. In the letters, which seek information about the arrangement between Wyeth and DesignWrite, Grassley raised alarm that those listed as authors were not deeply involved in drafting manuscripts.

Grassley's inquiry appears to reflect arguments that have been used in court cases against Wyeth and were "rejected by judges and juries alike," said Michael Lampe, a Wyeth spokesman, in a telephone interview. The company will provide a "full response" to Grassley, Lampe said.

"The authors of the articles in question, none of whom were paid, exercised substantive editorial control over the content of the articles and had the final say, in all respects, over the content," Lampe said.