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Drug Company Merck Drew Up Doctor "Hit List" 281

Posted by kdawson
from the i'll-have-your-job-young-man dept.
Philip K Dickhead sends in a piece from the Australian media, a couple of weeks old, that hasn't seen much discussion here. In a class-action lawsuit in Australia against Merck for its Vioxx anti-arthritis drug, information has come out that the company developed a "hit list" of doctors who had expressed anything but enthusiasm for the drug. Vioxx was withdrawn from the market in 2004 because it causes heart attacks and strokes. Merck settled a class action in the US for $4.85 billion but did not admit guilt. "An international drug company made a hit list of doctors who had to be 'neutralized' or discredited because they criticized the anti-arthritis drug the pharmaceutical giant produced. Staff at US company Merck & Co. emailed each other about the list of doctors — mainly researchers and academics — who had been negative about the drug Vioxx or Merck and a recommended course of action. The email, which came out in the Federal Court in Melbourne yesterday as part of a class action against the drug company, included the words 'neutralize,' 'neutralized,' or 'discredit' against some of the doctors' names. It is also alleged the company used intimidation tactics against critical researchers, including dropping hints it would stop funding to institutions and claims it interfered with academic appointments. 'We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live,' a Merck employee wrote, according to an email excerpt read to the court by Julian Burnside QC, acting for the plaintiff."
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Drug Company Merck Drew Up Doctor "Hit List"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @02:51PM (#27714971)

    I am really not that surprised. There is a great book out there written by a former New England Journal of Medicine editor-in-chief, Marcia Angell, called, The Truth About Drug Companies. (amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Truth-About-Drug-Companies-Deceive/dp/0375760946/ref=ed_oe_p). The book touches on the fact that drug companies do these kinds of things to Dr.s who disagree with them.

    Kind of off topic, but, among other things the book points out is that they're justification for high R&D costs is absurd. They mainly buy out small bio-tech companies or buy rights from academia / organizations who originally develop block buster drugs.

    It's a great read. for those of you to lazy to get your hands on the book (forgot how to read) youtube has some videos up of her lecturing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouF3ISihHLM

  • by oneirophrenos (1500619) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:41PM (#27715423)

    There exists a great deal of genetic polymorphism with regard to drug efficacy and side-effects. Individuals have differing capabilites for metabolizing a drug, which leads to some people being able to tolerate higher doses than others.

    In fear of lawsuits, pharma companies are quick to withdraw drugs from the market if serious side-effects surface. This has happened with a number of efficient drugs, such as rimonabant [wikipedia.org], an appetite suppressant that was pulled from the market in Europe for increased suicide risk. Even though the drug worked for a lot of people, Sanofi-Aventis saw that keeping the drug on the market wasn't worth the risk.

    The issue of side-effects may be resolved with the aid of pharmacogenetics, which will hopefully help identify the capacity of patients to benefit from a drug and tolerate its side-effects. Then it wouldn't matter if we have drugs on the market that cause ill effects to a certain group of people, because doctors would be able to cross-reference a patient's genome for genetic polymorphisms with regard to a drug, and only prescribe drugs with known side-effects to patients that can handle them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:43PM (#27715439)
    (Anon because I've modded.) In Canada ads for prescription drugs are allowed, but only if they don't mention what the drug is for. This leads to subtle innuendo, like Viagra ads with telephone poles and fence posts everywhere. Antidepressent commercials invariably show happy people having picnics and pushing their kids on a swing for 20 seconds, followed by the list of side effects and the phrase "Ask your doctor about today!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:43PM (#27715449)

    Every day, every channel ... I dare say every commercial break. "Ask your doctor about" this drug, that drug, some other drug. Anti-depressants, anti-cholesterol, arthritis pills, allergy pills... you name it. It's marketed directly to consumers.

  • Re:Oh boy (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @04:18PM (#27715737)

    The HPV vaccine is there to combat THE LEADING CAUSE OF CANCER DEATHS IN WOMEN.

    Actually no, it's there to combat the leading cause of cancer deaths in women (cervical cancer) and some close contenders.

    Cervical cancers that can strike and kill 20-year-olds depriving them of 50 good years of life. HPV related cervical cancers that strike and estimated 10,000 women a year (on the low end) in the US. How many times deadlier is that than Iraq and Afghanistan?

    I think it's much closer to mosquito control in it's potential positive impact than irradiated water. If you were listening to objective sources who spoke as loud and stridently as the anti-vax sources (or anti-woman church sources) you would easily see that. But somehow you have allowed yourself to be deceived and are passing that crime along.

  • Duh ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by aepervius (535155) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @04:23PM (#27715777)
    Long term effect of vaccination ? How about the same as long term effect as other vaccination ? You are not introducing PERMANENTLY something in the system, the vaccination product may well be flushed rather quickly out of the system. You are teaching the immune system to react to a specific part of what youa re immunizing against. I am not a biologist, but looks to me you are confusing long term effect of a chemical in the body (like for example AZT) with long term effect of the immune system being able to recognize a foreign host...
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @04:44PM (#27715919)

    I don't sense much bias in your comment, (for which you are to be congratulated), but I do take exception with some of your statements.

    Living in Canada, I've known numerous older people, (over 60) who receive excellent health care. Elaborate heart surgeries and such. Nobody seems to think that they're being given second rate care or that preferential treatment is being given to younger people. I've never even heard that idea floated until you brought it up just now. My grandfather is in his 80's and two years ago he was treated successfully for cancer. He's still quite active for a very old dude, and he has a lot of respect for his doctors.

    Just FYI.

    -FL

  • by copponex (13876) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @05:38PM (#27716273) Homepage

    I know. That's why the "free" is in quotes. Whenever you hear someone talk about how the market should be free, they usually mean, free to allow powerful interests engage in anti-competitive practices. That's how taxpayers end up subsidizing private providers of Medicare, because they can't compete with government provided services of comparable quality. It isn't "fair" that they aren't allowed to make money, so we should keep the market "free."

    Interestingly, it looks like India's health care system, a mix of private and public initiatives, is doing very poorly compared to the universal system in Singapore. India's healthcare system is not providing good service for their population, so I don't know why you consider it evidence of the "free" market working it's magic. According to Wikipedia, "Most public health facilities lack efficiency, are understaffed and have poorly maintained or outdated medical equipment." It's no secret that rich people can get good health care, it's just that most western people are very rich when they're shopping in India.

  • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@ear ... t ['hli' in gap]> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @06:51PM (#27716807)

    Vioxx wasn't specifically anti-arthritis. It was a Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drug. Like aspirin. But it only suppressed a part of the reactions that aspirin suppressed, so it didn't cause gastric distress. Unfortunately, it also had some other effects. If you didn't get them, then it was a reasonable drug.

    In a way it was rather like thalidomide. Only some people had the problem that caused it's recall, but the result was that nobody could use it. Not even terminal cancer patients. (For some terminal cancer patients, thalidomide was the only drug that would relieve their pain. But it was forbidden. Even if they were also male, and thus quite unlikely to get pregnant.)

  • Re:Oh boy (Score:3, Informative)

    by dbIII (701233) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @07:52PM (#27717211)
    One you get the disease the vaccine won't do any good. That is why they are giving it to girls that are young enough that most of them have never ever had unprotected sex (no Utah jokes please).
    It took many years to develop and test.
  • by Chryana (708485) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:16PM (#27717623)

    For some reason, all these countries which have socialized medicine and which will let older people die without treatment all seem to be ahead as far as life expectancy goes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy [wikipedia.org]
    US is at rank 45 behind Japan, Canada and pretty much all of Europe.
    I can't speak about the elderly visiting the US to get treatment, but I can tell you that I was in Tijuana, on the border to the US last year, and I saw firsthand that the medical industry seems very prominent in that city. I think you can reach the same conclusion that I came to when I observed this, although I have to admit I have no further data to back my suppositions.

  • by dr2chase (653338) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @12:01AM (#27718471) Homepage
    True. But happily, there is data, and the data says that the expected lifespan in Canada is 4 years longer than it is in the US, the infant mortality rate (deaths per 1000) is 5.1 instead of 6.3, yet they spend $2000 less per capita, and instead of spending 15.4% of GDP on healthcare, they spend 9.8%.

    There's your data -- the Canadian system is better. Your friend's dead uncle is just an anecdote. Perhaps the surgery he 'needed' was highly unlikely to extend his life.
  • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @01:40AM (#27718931)

    makers of the cancerous Aspartame

    Not according to the FDA [fda.gov] or ACSH [acsh.org]. But at least The Holistic Healing Web Page [holisticmed.com] is of that belief. In general, you should beware of medical advice that has its origins in fowarded emails.

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