Merck’s marketing department devised a study on the painkiller Vioxx solely in order to persuade 600 doctors involved in the trial to prescribe the drug and recommend it to their peers.
This information is based on 100 internal company memos and reports about the study known as Advantage. The memos and reports were obtained from lawsuits against Merck over heart risks tied to Vioxx, a drug which has been withdrawn.
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. According to Kevin Hill, of Harvard Medical School, the Advantage study “was marketing masquerading as science.”
* Bloomberg August 18, 2008