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Court hears how drug giant Merck tried to “neutralise” and “discredit” doctors critical of Vioxx

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 06 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1432
  1. Ray Moynihan
  1. 1Byron Bay, Australia

    The drug company Merck drew up a list of influential doctors and researchers it wanted to “neutralise” and “discredit,” as part of its marketing of the arthritis drug Vioxx (rofecoxib), according to evidence heard by an Australian court this week.

    Details of the plans to “neutralise” doctors surfaced during a class action against Merck on behalf of hundreds of Australians who had heart attacks or strokes after taking the drug, which was withdrawn in 2004 after concerns about safety.

    Julian Burnside QC, acting for the plaintiffs, read extracts from company emails sent between Merck staff that discussed a “list of ‘problem’ physicians that we must, at a minimum, neutralise.”

    The list dates from 1999 when questions were first raised about the safety of rofecoxib, and there was intense competition within the market …

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