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Lawsuit Reveals Merck's Fake Vioxx Journals

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, May 14, 2009 2:47 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Merck & Co, Vioxx, Dangerous Drugs, Arthritis, Painkiller, Rofecoxib, Conclift-of-Interest, Medical Journals

This phony medical journal was created by Merck to promote Vioxx, an Australian class-action lawsuit reveals.

Merck's Fake Medical Journals

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IMAGE SOURCE –Phony medical journal cover. ABC News Web site

A class-action lawsuit filed by about 1,000 Australians claiming injury from Merck & Co over its painkiller, Vioxx, reveals in court documents that Merck created phony medical journals to publish favorable reports on Vioxx.

The treasure trove of discovery also finds that doctors who were not onboard with the arthritis medication were targeted to be “neutralized” by the company.

Vioxx was removed from the market in 2004 after it was linked to thousands of strokes and heart attacks.

Merck settled those claims in the U.S. with a $4.85 billion national settlement that is still being distributed.

Vioxx trials are being held worldwide over the blockbuster arthritis drug that generated $2 billion a year in revenue for Merck.

The phony journals looked so real that the largest publisher of medical journals, Elsevier, produced them with names like “The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine. The company has since found six other phony Australasian journals, according to ABC News.

The company expressed anger at the news.

"We think this practice is wrong and we're doing everything that we possibly can to make sure it doesn't happen again," Tom Reller, director of corporate relations at Elsevier said to ABC News.

Elsevier allows sponsored content as long as it is disclosed and not called “Journals of.”

Elsevier is now reviewing its 2,000 journals looking for fakes.

Even some of the doctors listed as board members for the journal were shocked to see their names listed.

"I saw a copy of it years ago, somewhere, and I saw my name on it," said Dr. Ego Seeman, professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne at Austin Health. "The pure fact that my name was on it without me being contacted, invited or involved was very upsetting."

Dr. Seeman says he also alerted a colleague who was listed as an honorary editorial board member.

The journals were so authentic looking that they listed an editorial staff, subscription information, yet they did not publish any original peer-reviewed content.

Documents have also disclosed that Merck kept detailed lists of leading doctors and researchers with notes about their willingness to prescribe Vioxx. Notes say “Not quite anti-Merck; major advocate for Searle/Pfizer” and ‘NEUTRALIZED’ which meant discredited, according to plaintiff testimony, reports ABC.

Merck explains that word as meaning the doctor received additional information to bring him back to a neutral position.

Dr. Seeman says the credibility of all science and medicine is hurt by these revelations. "Having my name there [on the board] makes me indirectly responsible for the validity of the content. It's a gross abuse," he said.

"What Merck did is "careless... it's showing no care or respect for the scientists' need for independence and credibility."

In the U.S., an April 2008 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), article reveals how Merck compensated ghostwriters, who were not doctors, to create articles for professional journals that have the potential to influence doctors and popularize drugs prescribed to the public.

The Australian class-action trial has been ongoing in Melbourne since it began March 30. #


3 Comments

Posted by Gerry McGill
Thursday, May 14, 2009 4:14 PM EST

This is one of the most outrageous frauds that I have ever heard of. It reminds me of the tobacco company executives testimony before Congress that there was no scientific evidence that cigarette smoking was harmful. It also makes me wonder how many false studies are published in legitimate journals.

Anonymous User
Posted by alpfrodo
Thursday, May 14, 2009 5:14 PM EST

Mr. McGill, if you think Merck's "fake journals" are outrageous frauds, you should look into the current Vioxx Settlement. Can you imagine a lawyer telling a client "sign this release form and maybe the defendant might give you some unknown amount of money at some undefined time in the future. Oh and by the way. If you don't sign, I won't represent you any more."

Anonymous User
Posted by Joan Petty
Tuesday, June 09, 2009 9:11 PM EST

Great story, Merck's settlement is a volunteer settlement for Merck to stay out of jail. Except the CEO's who know the toxic pill Vioxx was going to kill before it came out of the lab and promoted it as the worlds best wonder pain killer. Fast tracked approval with false documents submitted to the FDA and left it on the market for 5 years knowing it was killing and injuring the American Consumers.

Comments for this article are closed.

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