Vioxx Nurses Trolled Doctor Records for Potential Patients

The ongoing <"">Vioxx trial in Australia has just revealed that Merck, the maker of the controversial drug, paid so-called nurses to look through medical records in search of potential Vioxx patients, BNET reports. According to the Australian court, the nurses accessed patient records without obtaining physician permission in the hopes of garnering 100 patients per doctor, explained BNET. Patients were sought who were not taking, but were seen as potential candidates to take Vioxx, said BNET, citing The Australian.

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Vioxx was approved for use in the U.S. in 1999, and quickly became a blockbuster for Merck, with annual sales of $2.5 billion. The painkiller was pulled off the market in 2004 after an analysis of patients using Vioxx linked the defective drug to more than 27,000 heart attacks or sudden cardiac deaths in the U.S. from 1999 through 2003. Vioxx was also recalled in more than 80 countries that year.

It seems, said The Australian, that the drug giant urged pharmacists to recommend Vioxx to those patients who were prescribed paracetemol by providing them with free copies of the Merck manual, according to BNET. Merck also apparently put on a year-end “skit” in which Merck sales reps mocked the Journal of the American Medical Association. The Journal published an article discussing Vioxx and issues with its cardiovascular side effects, said BNET.

News of the skit is somewhat ironic, especially given recent reports on one of the most shocking tactics used by Merck to push Vioxx in Australia: The use of a fake medical journal. The journal, published by Elsevier, was offering it like other peer-reviewed medical journals, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles, all of which presented Merck products, including Vioxx, in a favorable light. According to an earlier New York Times piece, Merck published several issues of the “journal,” entitled Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, between 2002 and 2005, presenting it to doctors as a real medical journal.

Hondo video The New York Time also reported that the Australian trial revealed that Vioxx sales reps in that country were given a training manual called the “Vioxx Objection Handling Module.” This manual schooled reps in methods of deflecting doctors’ questions about the drug’s side effects, and easing their concerns. According to The New York Times, Merck began distributing the manual in 2001 as studies began to emerge that pointed to the drug’s heart and stroke risks.

The Australian trial has also demonstrated how disillusioned doctors felt when they learned Merck had tried to obscure Vioxx’s safety issues. For example, in an e-mail message dated October 2, 2004, Dr. James V. Bertouch, an Australian physician who had been a member of Merck’s arthritis advisory board, told fellow board member that he felt “like the proverbial mushroom” and asked colleagues how they felt being kept in the dark about Vioxx.

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The Vioxx recall spawned thousands of product liability lawsuits. In 2007, Merck agreed to settle most U.S. Vioxx claims for $4.85 billion; however, Merck continues to defend lawsuits in other countries, including Australia.The Kovak Box rip

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