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Picture of William Heisel

Freelance journalist Martha Rosenberg recently made an interesting comparison between embattled drug giant Wyeth and former insurance giant AIG. The latter famously handed out massive bonuses and planned lavish company retreats at a time when the company was receiving billions in federal bailout funds.

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

It sometimes seems like it takes a high-profile case like Terri Schiavo to get people to think about end-of-life issues – or editors to agree to stories on the topic.

Picture of William Heisel

It’s not as seductive as a candlelit bedroom.

But a dinner with medical colleagues after a board meeting can exert a powerful a pull on talented scientists flirting with the drug industry. Rarely one-on-ones, these dinners are usually threesomes:

1. The seducer: a representative for a medical communications company that has been hired by a drug company to help market a particular product or disease in need of new cures being cooked up by the company.

2. The object of seduction: a researcher with known expertise in the company’s target area.

Picture of William Heisel

Putting together a scientific research paper should be a different process than building a Ford Taurus or making a Big Mac.

For the drug companies and their ghostwriting partners, it isn’t.

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

In the heated debate over the new routine mammogram screening recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, not enough coverage has focused on our perception of risk.

It’s important context for all reporting on medical screening.

Journalist Merrill Goozner, who blogs at GoozNews, has a great post on this topic, and on the costs of our misperception of risk. He writes:

Picture of R. Jan Gurley

Are you confused, angry and, frankly, pissed off as you watch sumo-sized egos battle out the mammogram issue? How will it affect you and your loved ones? What actually is the thinking behind the new United States Preventative Services Task Force recommendation to NOT screen women in their forties for breast cancer? Is it as nonsensical as it sounds? Doc Gurley gives you a common sense, plain-language explanation of the ins and outs of this complex issue. She's a practicing board-certified internist who's also published cost-effectiveness research.

Picture of Dan Lee

Doctors tend to shy away from using the word "cure" and cancer in the same sentence, but a wealth of promising research and medical developments in recent years has been extending lives and reducing the incidence of some cancers.

Science has produced the HPV vaccine to prevent a virus linked to cervical cancer as well as breakthrough drugs like Herceptin and Tamoxifen to keep breast cancer from recurring.

The overall cancer death rate fell 16 percent from its peak in 1991 to 2006, the latest year for which the American Cancer Society has information.

Picture of Nick  Vidinsky

Studies have shown that breastfeeding significantly reduces health risks for babies and their mothers. So how many Californians are breastfeeding their babies? Not enough. See our interactive charts and sort the data by ethnicity, income and gender.

Visit Health Dialogues to view the graph:

http://www.kqed.org/assets/graph/breastfeeding/index.jsp

Picture of William Heisel

What drives someone with a strong scientific reputation to cut a secret deal with a drug company for ghostwriting help just to have one more paper published?

Let's ask.

Picture of William Heisel

If DesignWrite, the medical communications firm that has been ghostwriting articles on behalf of drug giant Wyeth, were an elementary school student, it would have a stack of papers heavy with gold stars.

Dr. Gloria Bachmann, the associate dean for women's health at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., told the company it had written an "an A plus article" after it wrote a review article that Bachmann agreed to sign. The article appeared with hardly a word changed in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine.

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