Last Updated Apr 23, 2009 4:05 PM EDT
Federal prosecutors in the U.S. will be reading with amusement the Australian press’s coverage of a class action trial down under for patients who took Merck’s now-withdrawn painkiller Vioxx.
Details emerging in Oz make some of the antics that Merck’s American counterparts got up to look tame by comparison. For example, in Australia, Merck allegedly:
- Had a doctor sign his name to an entirely ghostwritten journal article even though a Merck staffer had complained that the data within it was based on “wishful thinking.”
- Created a fake “peer-reviewed” journal, the “Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine,” in which to publicize pro-Vioxx articles.
- Created a Ricky Martin-style pop song to get Merck sales reps all jazzed up about Vioxx (lyrics below!).
- During the trial, Merck has employed an unusually aggressive set of PR consultants, some of whom have even followed reporters into the bathroom to make sure they got the story “right.”
- Hatched a Blackadder-style “cunning plan” to seed seminars with speakers who were sympathetic to Vioxx but under instructions not to mention the brand name too often.
Regarding the “wishful thinking” study, The Age reports on these emails turned over in the trial:
Email from Merck senior researcher Briggs Morrison, August 2001:
“That seems wishful thinking, not a critical interpretation of the data… The data appears to have been interpreted to support a preconceived hypothesis.”
The claim was nonetheless included in the final version of the article, which Merck employees sent to US cardiologist Dr Marv Konstam for approval…
Dr Konstam was named as the article’s lead author when it was published in the medical journal Circulation in October 2001
The Australian describes the fake journal. And The Age notes that the journal was “designed to resemble a peer-reviewed publication and reprinted previously published articles.”
Here are the utterly priceless lyrics to two songs Merck had composed celebrating Vioxx. ..