According to researchers, the main purpose behind a 1999 clinical study (called Advantage) done by Merck on Vioxx was not to test potential side effects, but instead, it was meant to support a marketing campaign before the launch of this once-popular pain killer. Merck sold about 2.5 billion dollars-worth of this dangerous drug annually before the Food & Drug Administration ("FDA") called for its withdrawl in September, 2004. That's when another study showed that long-term Vioxx users had twice the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
The researchers published their findings this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine Journal. The researchers said that "seeding" (or marketing) studies such as this had long been suspected, but there had not been a "smoking gun" like this before. The original Merck study was also published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The editor of this journal says Advantage's main purpose was not disclosed to it when the journal published the original article.
Frankly, I am not surprised by this news. Merck does put out some effective drugs, but efficacy is not the same as safety. Unfortunately, safety often gets in the way of making a profit.
It's no wonder that Merck agreed to pay 4.85 billion dollars in a massive settlement of claims last year. Considering this "smoking gun" evidence of greed, it was probably a wise move to enter into that settlement. This is just another unfortunate example of considering profits over the lives of consumers.