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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Merck Hit List

American Scofflaw

The international drug company Merck had a hit list of doctors who had to be "neutralized" or discredited because they had criticized the painkiller Vioxx, a now-withdrawn drug that the pharmaceutical giant produced.

Staff at the company emailed each other about the list of doctors. The email, which came out during a class-action suit against the drug company, included the words "neutralize," "neutralized" or "discredit" alongside some of the doctors' names.

The company is alleged to have used intimidation tactics against researchers, including dropping hints that the company would stop funding their institutions, and possibly even interfering with academic appointments.

"We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live," a Merck employee wrote, according to an email excerpt read to the court.
Drug companies have been hiring outside firms to purchase data on doctors from pharmacies since the mid-1990s. The reports let drug sales representatives see a doctor’s prescribing habits, among other things, which lets them know:

1. If their sales pitches are working
2. How to change their sales pitch if they’re not

For example, if the report shows a doctor generally prescribes a drug’s competitor, they can prepare a sales pitch specifically to discredit the competing drug. Meanwhile, those doctors who do regularly prescribe their drugs would likely be singled out to receive some “incentives” to keep doing so. But it’s not only doctors who are being quietly influenced.

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