Figuring prominently inthe JAMA article that revealed Vioxx studies were generated through ghostwriting is Scientific Therapeutics Information, which is known in pharma as a leading medical publishing firm that "specializes in scientific literature." The article pointed out that STI drafted Vioxx studies and then sought academics to sign on as the primary authors. And so Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has stepped up his pressure on the firm to disclose its activities.
In letters sent to STI president John Romankiewicz and Merck ceo Dick Clark, Grassley asks both companies to divulge the extent of their dealings with each other. Although Merck called the JAMA article misleading, the drugmaker acknowledged that it sometimes hires outside medical writers to conduct research and draft manuscripts before giving them to doctors who eventually are listed as authors. Romankiewicz hasn't returned a call seeking comment.
To underscore his point, Grassley cites one instance in which his staffers found an e-mail sent to STI by a Northwestern University professor in August 2000, in which he apparently declined payment for work on a manuscript. "I really do not feel it is appropriate to be paid for this type of work," he wrote. The e-mail, Grassley notes, was forwarded to several STI employees, one of whom wrote "We were offering him $2000. Should I offer to issue the check as a research grant?" Romankiewicz, by the way, was copied on the e-mails.