The placement of the Washington Post story yesterday, page one, caught our eye. And the accusations against Merck were certainly pumped up to full volume.
Two teams of researchers with access to thousands of documents gathered for lawsuits over the painkiller Vioxx allege that Merck waged a campaign of deception to promote its drug, moving slowly to warn of possible hazards while at the same time dressing up in-house studies as the work of independent academic researchers.
The reports in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association in effect accuse one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical makers of various forms of scientific fraud.
Oh, the prestigious, fact-based, peer-reviewed JAMA, so it’s an allegation that must be taken seriously, right?
To those who follow media coverage of civil litigation and tort reform, the story immediately stood out as a hit job, one that can only be seen in the context of the multibillion-dollar wave of lawsuits against Merck for claims against Vioxx. After the jump to an inside page — always after the jump — Merck gets a brief chance to respond: “A spokesman for Merck’s legal team dismissed the JAMA authors as ‘people in the pay of trial lawyers.'”
We know lots about media coverage, but not enough about the ins and outs of the Vioxx litigation to fully judge the story. But Ted Frank of the American Enterprise Institute certainly knows the issues, and here’s his PointofLaw take on the JAMA study that the Washington Post gave such prominence to:
The latest issue of Journal of the American Medical Association publishes two pieces by plaintiffs’-side experts (including the infamous Dr. David Egilman (e.g., Oct. 2007; Dec. 2005; Jul. 2005) slamming Merck over Vioxx studies. Ross/Hill/Egilman/Krumholz accuse scientists of ghostwriting studies for Merck, but as Merck and Reuters note, Egilman et al. are smearing dozens of scientists without factual basis.
How unbalanced and unfair is the Psaty/Kronmal piece? The entire piece is about Protocols 078 and 091 (the “Alzheimer’s trials”), but nowhere does it note that the very same Alzheimer’s trials data found that Vioxx was less likely than placebo to result in cardiovascular events. (Indeed, it was the results of Study 078 and 091 that led Merck (and the FDA) to mistakenly believe that the adverse cardiovascular results in VIGOR were the combination of the cardioprotective effects of naproxen and random chance. See Martin Report 58-60.) There was no scientific reason to believe that Vioxx was causing fatal heart attacks (or car accidents) while simultaneously preventing heart attacks. This sort of for-hire hit-piece is appalling enough when presented in a court of law masquerading as scientific evidence; it’s utterly shameful that a political piece has the endorsement of a medical journal.
See, it’s all part of the trial lawyer shakedown. JAMA is the enforcer carrying the baseball bat of bad publicity. And the Washington Post is the little weasely guy standing next to the muscle, saying, “Yeah, yeah, that’s it. Hit ’em harder.” Because the real point of enforcement is scaring the next victim who might not pay up.
Also, Merck news release: “Merck Responds to Journal of the American Medical Association Articles.”
And politicization of medical journals is not a new phenomenon. Michael Fumento wrote about JAMA in 1999 in the Wall Street Journal, “Medical Journals Give New Meaning To ‘Political Science’.”
Latest posts by NAM (see all)
- Manufacturers Win Several Website Design Awards - June 15, 2011
- China Makes Commitments on Trade, Intellectual Property - December 16, 2010
- ITC Details Widespread Theft of Intellectual Property in China - December 14, 2010