The Vioxx trials pose a risk to the pharmaceutical industry beyond the financial damages that will be awarded. In particular, they may bring to light business practices that are accepted in the industry but that may raise the ire of consumers and legislators. One such pharma industry practice is to have post-approval clinical trials sponsored and designed by the marketing department, rather than the R&D department.
Among major pharma companies, Merck does more than most to subject post-approval studies to the rigor of real research. Nonetheless, there is room for some fairly uncomfortable questioning on the witness stand. Earlier this week, Merck’s head of marketing (aka President of Human Health) David Anstice testified at the latest Vioxx trial.
From the Wall Street Journal (Merck Executive Had Vioxx Fears, Testimony Shows):
September 23, 2005
Mr. Seeger questioned Mr. Anstice on clinical studies developed by Merck’s marketing team, and the purpose of such studies. “Does Merck tell patients that marketers design studies?” Mr. Seeger asked… The Merck executive replied that those facts were “not something you’d discuss with patients.”