A report published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) makes accusations that Merck, one of the world’s
most powerful and influential pharmaceutical companies, participated in various
forms of scientific fraud in order to mask the effects of the now recalled pain
medication Vioxx. The information comes after a long and tedious examination of
thousands of documents made public through the thousands of lawsuits filed over
Vioxx. Researchers claim that Merck pursued a deceptive marketing campaign, and
deliberately moved slowly to warn consumers of the possibly fatal side effects
associated with Vioxx.
One study alleges that Merck gave the Food
and Drug Administration an incomplete accounting of deaths in a clinical
trial of Vioxx in people with mild dementia. Federal regulators eventually
received the data, which added to growing evidence that Vioxx increased the
risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Merck has also been accused of using what JAMA authors
described as “ghostwriters,” to pass off research done by Merck employee as the
work of scientists, giving the research much more clout when posted in medical
journals and other peer review sources.
While this new evidence of fraud likely comes to late to
impact the $4.85 billion settlement from last fall, it should provide a little more insight to the public on the inner workings of big pharma. It is unrealistic to assume that
other large pharmaceutical companies do not employ similar deceptive tactics to
those allegedly used by Merck.
A spokesman for Merck’s legal team dismissed the JAMA
authors as “people in the pay of trial lawyers.”