For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
(208) 334-4112

Date: May 21, 2008

Idaho to Receive More than $1.1 Million from Vioxx Maker

(Boise) – The State of Idaho will receive more than $1.1 million as a result of a consent judgment with Merck and Company, Inc., Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today. Wasden’s office filed a consent judgment resolving a three-year investigation by 30 states concerning the company’s deceptive promotion of the drug Vioxx.

The judgment, filed Tuesday in Fourth District Court in Ada County, will largely restrict Merck’s ability to deceptively promote any Merck product.

The judgment requires Merck to submit all “direct to consumer” television drug advertisements to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), wait for FDA 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 relieving drugs.

The Attorneys General expressed concerns regarding the negative effect of advertising that begins as soon as a new drug is released and before doctors have a chance to gain experience with the drug and understand its potential side effects. Potential side effects of Vioxx include increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes.

“Merck’s aggressive, early direct to consumer promotion of Vioxx drove hundreds of thousands of consumers to seek prescriptions before Vioxx’s risks were fully understood,” Wasden said. “This action gives the FDA clear discretion and authority to make such an assessment on all new Merck pain drugs and requires Merck to submit television ads to the FDA for suggested revisions and acceptance of the final product before running the ads.”

Other concerns of the states are either prohibited or curtailed in the judgment, including:

  • 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; and
  • conflicts of interest in data safety monitoring boards sponsored by Merck.

Merck must pay a total of $58 million to the 30 participating states. Idaho will receive $1,150,140 from the settlement.

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