Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Simply Irresistible: Abbott Tampering with Wikipedia Entries

According to Patients Not Patents, a group that "challenges the validity of medical patents before the United States Patent and Trademark Office," Abbott Laboratories is a serial Wikipedia tamperer.

Here's the press release:

Newly available data show that employees of Abbott Laboratories have been altering entries to Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, to eliminate information questioning the safety of its top-selling drugs.

In July of 2007, a computer at Abbott Laboratories’ Chicago office was used to delete a reference to a Mayo Clinic study that revealed that patients taking the arthritis drug Humira faced triple the risk of developing certain kinds of cancers and twice the risk of developing serious infections. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006.

The same computer was used to remove articles describing public interest groups' attempt to have Abbott's weight-loss drug Meridia banned after the drug was found to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke in some patients.

The site's editors restored the deleted information, but Abbott's activities illustrate drug companies’ eagerness to suppress safety concerns, said Jeffrey Light, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Patients not Patents. "The argument that drug companies can be trusted to provide adequate safety information on their own products has been used by the pharmaceutical industry to fight against government regulation of consumer advertising. Clearly such trust is misplaced. As Abbott’s actions have demonstrated, drug companies will attempt to hide unfavorable safety information when they think nobody is watching."

The changes are part of over one thousand edits made from computers at Abbott's offices. The data was obtained from WikiScanner, an independent site that allows users to look up anonymous changes to Wikipedia articles.
According to CL Psych Blog, Wiki Scanner is "simply irresistible" and more people should use it to discover who's gaming the system (see "Amateur Sleuthing"):
"Pharmalot let us know that AstraZeneca had changed the Wikipedia entry for Seroquel (story via the Times of London). Read more at Wired and Forbes. But, why wait around for a journalist to break the story when you can do it yourself? The Wiki Scanner site is a wonderful tool for amateur sleuths such as myself. Wanna see which companies made changes to Wikipedia entries? Here's just one example: Edelman PR made a change to the Wikipedia for Celecoxib (Celebrex) and for Viagra."

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