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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

NPR's June 9 article on Merck's pressure on Med School re Vioxx

The NPR broadcast on June 9 has a disturbing feature on a drug company's pressure on med schools to reign in criticism on one of the company's products. In this article Dr. James Fries, a professor of Medicine at Stanford, relates the details of a phone call he received from Dr. Louis Sherwood of Merck complaining about a Stanford's researcher's ( Dr. Gurkirpal Singh) comments about Vioxx. Details are found at NPR in the transcript of the reporter's interview with Fries. HCRENEWAL on June 6 described the Fries incident as well as other alleged instances of Merck attempting to silence Vioxx critics at medical schools. Merck and Sherwood deny they were trying to silence critics. As is often the case, news items such as these end up being a " he said-he said" situation but this type of negative publicity is certaintly not what Merck (and others in the Big-Pharma fraternity) need and I doubt current public relations advertising programs will be very convincing to the public that drug companies care about their health. Medical Schools receive significant amounts of funding from drug companies and it would be very easy for the public to believe that whoever pays the orchestra is likely to at least attempt to call the tunes.

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