Merck Vioxx Trial Done to Boost Sales, Study Finds

By Elizabeth Lopatto and Michelle Fay Cortez

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) — Merck & Co.’s marketing department devised a study on the painkiller Vioxx to persuade 600 doctors involved in the trial to prescribe the drug and recommend it to their peers, researchers say.

Their conclusions are based on 100 internal company memos and reports about the study known as Advantage obtained from lawsuits against Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck over heart risks tied to Vioxx, now withdrawn. The trial of 5,557 patients started in 1999, just as Vioxx was cleared for sale, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine report.

The study, which tested the drug’s safety in the stomach, was primarily crafted by Merck’s marketing department to get doctors to prescribe Vioxx, the researchers wrote. The report provides some of the first evidence of what is thought to be a widespread practice: recruiting doctors for a study to boost their confidence in a new drug and get them to promote it to colleagues, they said. More…