Computers located on the network controlled by pharma giant Abbott Laboratories have made over 1,000 edits to Wikipedia entries about the company and its products—according to WikiScanner, a tool created by 24-year-old scientist Virgil Griffith that analyzes public data about access to the online free-content encyclopedia.
Based on the data provided by the software tool, the public-advocacy group Patients Not Patents reports that “employees of Abbott Laboratories have been altering entries […] to eliminate information questioning the safety of its top-selling drugs.” The edits include the removal of a reference to a study indicating that patients taking an Abbott arthritis drug faced triple the risk of getting certain cancers.
The relationship between Abbott and consumer advocates has been acrimonious for some time, particularly when it comes to HIV issues. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company contemplated restricting an AIDS drug to its liquid form only, which was described as tasting like “someone else’s vomit.” Ultimately the company quintupled the price of the drug as part of an anti-competition strategy.
Other pharma companies whose computer networks have been implicated in Wikipedia-entry changes include AstraZeneca, according to the London Times.
PHOTO OF VIRGIL GRIFFITH, CREDIT: JAKE APPELBAUM