Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Investigations: Merck Vioxx Trial Really Intended to "Seed" Market

Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. organized a trial of controversial painkiller Vioxx, now the subject of a $4.85-billion settlement that the company is finalizing with thousands of claimants, as a "seeding" study designed to prime the market to jump-start sales, says this Wall Street Journal piece about a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study is the first about the little-discussed, albeit apparently prevalent practice of marketing-related trials in the pharma business. Critics of the Merck study say it raises ethical questions for the 5,500 patients who participated. Edward Scolnick, Merck's head of research at the time, called the marketing study "intellectually redundant" and "extremely dangerous" because it could yield data that might compromise results of more meaningful clinical trials.

The goal, according to Merck documents, was to give primary-care physicians experience with Vioxx before its anticipated launch "to accelerate uptake and advocacy for Vioxx." Subsequent analysis found doctors who participated in the trial prescribed more Vioxx than a control group.

TAGS: pharma, drugs, investigations

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