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Attorney General William H. Sorrell Files Judgement Against Merck Pharmaceutical
CONTACT: Julie Brill, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3658
May 20, 2008 - Attorney General William H. Sorrell today filed a consent judgment with Merck and Company, Inc. resolving a three-year investigation by 31 states concerning the company’s deceptive promotion of pain-reliever Vioxx. The State of Vermont will receive a $1.7 million payment to resolve its concerns. Merck will pay all 31 states a total of $58 million. In addition, the judgment filed in the Washington Superior Court will largely restrict Merck’s ability to deceptively promote any Merck product.
“Drug companies advertise on television to increase demand for their products. This case raises a red flag for the pharmaceutical industry: advertise in the right way or face the consequences,” Attorney General Sorrell said.
Today’s judgment requires Merck to submit all “direct-to-consumer” television drug advertisements to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), wait for approval, and comply with FDA comments before running the advertisement. Merck must also comply with any recommendation by the FDA to delay direct-to-consumer advertising for new Merck pain relief drugs.
Attorney General Sorrell’s concerns over Vioxx marketing stemmed, in part, from the negative effects of direct-to-consumer advertising that commences immediately with the release of a new drug, before doctors have a chance to gain experience with the drug and understand its potential side effects.
“Although a small state, we carried a big stick in this case. I am proud of the lead role we played, as evidenced by our relatively large share of the settlement payment,” said Attorney General Sorrell.
Today’s judgment also prohibits the following additional marketing practices: * Deceptive use of scientific data when marketing to doctors * “Ghost writing” of articles and studies * Failing to adequately disclose the conflict of interest of Merck promotional speakers when these speakers present in supposedly “independent” Continuing Medical Education seminars * Conflicts of interest in Merck sponsored Data Safety Monitoring Boards
More information about pharmaceutical issues and Vermont consumer protection in general may be found at www.atg.state.vt.us.
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