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Merck, the company that developed and sells Vioxx has been charged with covering up the dangerous side effects of that drug. Merck CEO Raymond Gilmartin testified in November of 2004 that Merck had "promptly disclosed" the negative results of its studies to physicians, but the documents show otherwise. In fact, "as evidence mounted that "Vioxx could cause heart attacks, the company ordered its sales force not to discuss the emerging data with doctors, but instead to paint a reassuring picture of minimal risks."
According to a May 6, 2005 report in the Los Angeles Times, a Merck company bulletin from 2001 ordered the sales force to steer clear of discussing a scientific meeting convened by the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate Vioxx safety. "DO NOT INITIATE DISCUSSIONS," it said in a prominent warning. In other internal missives, concerns about heart risks were termed "obstacles." A sales campaign to overcome the safety concerns was called "Project Offense." Another was dubbed "Project XXceleration"--a play on the spelling of the drug.
Many recent Vioxx lawsuits bring to light questions as to when Merck was first made aware that fatal side effects were associated with Vioxx, and whether the company failed to inform public health authorities of these side effects, in a timely manner. Additionally, Merck extensively marketed Vioxx as highly safe and effective, while minimizing its risks compared to other drugs on the market.
The Annals of Internal Medicine may publish a correction to a Merck & Co.-sponsored study of the pain pill Vioxx to show the drug had a higher risk of heart attacks than originally stated. The study, published in 2003, listed five heart attacks among arthritis patients taking Vioxx compared with one in those taking naproxen. Three additional cardiac deaths in the Vioxx group went unmentioned, including one in which company officials may have pressured a researcher to change his opinion about the likely cause of death, acording to an April 24, 2005 report in the New York Times.
A recent story in the Los Angeles Times reports that four years ago, as evidence mounted that Merck's blockbuster painkiller Vioxx could cause heart attacks, the company ordered its sales force not to discuss the emerging data with doctors, but instead to paint a reassuring picture of minimal risks, according to documents released on May 5, 2005 at a congressional hearing.
Pharmaceutical representatives who communicate inforamtion on drugs to physicians are known in the business as "detailers". Merck and other drug companies say their detailers act as neutral educators to guide physicians in prescribing drugs, but the more than 20,000 pages of documents released released by the House Committee on Government Reform showed that Merck's representatives were coached to be aggressive salesmen.
Pharmaceutical giant Merck has faced allegations that it hid or tried to cover up information indicating dangerous side effects of its pain drug Vioxx. In 2000, when its studies began to show evidence of heart risks, Merck reported the findings to the FDA. Additional information from a Merck-funded study led to the company's decision to recall Vioxx. What it did not do was include the 2000 study's indication of problems in the data on risks that its sales force showed to doctors and other prospective customers.