It seems the Australians are riveted by the trial surrounding Merck’s drug Vioxx. Here in the U.S., civil trials don’t typically get as much attention as criminal trials, but the facts surrounding Vioxx are compelling.
This is typical bad behavior for pharmaceutical companies—we see it time and time again in many cases. Some examples of what’s coming out in the plaintiffs’ case:
• Merck created and distributed a marketing publication disguised as an independent medical journal
• Merck armed its sales representatives with a training manual called the “Vioxx Objection Handling Module” to debate safety concerns
Prior to the 1999 introduction of Vioxx in Australia, Merck created an advisory board of influential physicians, ostensibly to educate the medical community about painkillers. However, internal company documents reveal that the board was tasked to “accept the data and positioning of Vioxx,” and “publicly state that Vioxx is superior.”
Rather than settle, Merck is litigating because they believe their company acted responsibly in marketing the drug… or just because they believe they can win. The settlements in the U.S. suggest the latter.
However, even academic publishing company Elsevier admits that its Australian office published six fake journals for Merck from 2000 to 2006. None of the journals revealed Merck’s sponsorship, leading doctors to believe it was real science. Instead, those journals were just advertisements in sheep’s clothing. Elsevier’s CEO admits that “[t]his was an unacceptable practice.”
Vioxx was recalled in 2004 amid concerns that it increased the risks for heart attacks and strokes. Here in the States, a $4.85 billion settlement program is well underway for approximately 50,000 people with cardiovascular injuries.