Another Vioxx Scandal: Early Study Designed As Marketing Tool

Researchers are shocked to discover that a study done to “test the side effects of Vioxx” was really conducted to support a marketing campaign for the drug. Of course, they were paid by the plaintiffs in the anti-Vioxx litigation.

WSJ: A 1999 clinical study that Merck & Co. said was done to test side effects of the painkiller Vioxx was, in fact, conducted primarily to support a marketing campaign before the drug’s launch, according to a study being published Tuesday.

Researchers said their findings, based on internal Merck records disclosed during litigation, are among the first to document what many scientists suspect is a wider industry practice of using studies masquerading as clinical science to bolster marketing plans. Such behaviour would raise ethical and scientific questions, from whether study participants were unknowingly — and needlessly — put in harm’s way, to whether a company’s research is reliable.

“You hear people talk about it, but I’ve never seen anyone publish on it or formally admit to it,” says Arthur Caplan, a University of Pennsylvania bioethicist. Kevin Hill, a psychiatrist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., who was lead author of the study, said, “Patients and physicians weren’t told about the marketing objectives of the trial.” Because participants in clinical studies expose themselves to drugs’ potentially dangerous side effects, he adds, “They need to know what they’re risking their health for.”

The trial led to doctors who helped conduct the study prescribing more Vioxx than those who didn’t. Which suggests (to us, anyway) that the doctors liked it.

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