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pharmaceutical industry

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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.

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Career archivist Kim Klausner takes her roles as a historian and as a public health advocate equally seriously. As the Industry Documents Digital Libraries Manager for the University of California-San Francisco, she is in charge of the Drug Industry Documents Archive, a collection of thousands of records that shine a light on practices by Wyeth, Pfizer, Abbott and other Big Pharma companies.

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Perhaps more than anyone who has ever written about ghostwriting in medical literature, Kim Klausner knows where the bodies are buried. Klausner is the Industry Documents Digital Libraries Manager for the University of California-San Francisco, which means she is in charge of the Drug Industry Documents Archive, a collection of thousands of documents that detail how the drug industry has used continuing medical education and medical literature to help market its products.

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Thomas Sullivan writes the Policy and Medicine blog. He also runs Rockpointe Corporation, a medical education company that works with nonprofits and for-profits to create continuing medical education (CME) programs. As company-sponsored CME and ghostwriting by companies has come under fire, Sullivan has become an outspoken advocate for medical education firms.

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Even in his infamy, Dr. Daniel Carlat, founder of The Carlat Psychiatry Report, is popular with drug companies. Carlat was invited recently by Schering-Plough to help promote a new drug.

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"It is not often that you are aware of the revolution right while you are in the midst of it. But we are," says Alicia C. Shepard, ombudsman at National Public Radio. And with those changes come a host of challenges for journalists working in a fast-changing climate, she recently told a group of broadcasters participating in The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.

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Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman has become the go-to source for comments on how drug companies have been using ghostwriters to inject marketing messages into the medical literature, a controversy that prompted powerful Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to send a letter on Aug. 11 to the National Institutes of Health asking, among other things, "What is the current NIH policy on ghostwriting with regards to NIH researchers?"

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The world’s best-selling drugs lower cholesterol, reduce heartburn and treat depression. Pharmaceutical companies rake in tens of billions of dollars a year (Lipitor alone brought in $13.6 billion in global sales in 2006) by reaching millions of patients in the and others abroad. Meanwhile, patients with rare diseases and lesser known conditions wait on better treatments as companies find ways to make a profit on their drugs.

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I wrote a post earlier this week about a Nieman Reports article by Dr. John Abramson, a clinical instructor at Harvard and outspoken critic of the pharmaceutical industry. After serving in the National Health Service Corps, Abramson worked as a family physician for 20 years in Massachusetts.

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