Full Committee Hearing:The Roles of FDA and Pharmaceutical Companies in Ensuring the Safety of Approved Drugs, Like Vioxx
On November 9, 2004, the Committee on Government Reform requested that Merck provide the Committee with a wide range of documents related to the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx. The request expressly sought "all presentations, training sessions, or materials given to Merck employees and agents who marketed Vioxx" and "all records of communication provided to healthcare providers and pharmacists concerning the safety and efficacy of the drug." In response to this request, Merck provided the Committee with over 20,000 pages of internal company documents, including course curricula, bulletins to the field, training manuals, company talking points, memoranda among senior executives, and promotional materials for use with physicians. The Committee also received documents from FDA related to Vioxx. These documents provide an extraordinary window into how Merck trained its sales representatives and used them to communicate to physicians about Vioxx and its health risks. In fact, the documents may offer the most extensive account ever provided to Congress of a drug company’s efforts to use its sales force to market to physicians and overcome health concerns. Rep. Waxman has released an analysis these documents that suggests that Merck sent more than 3,000 highly trained representatives into doctor's offices and hospitals armed with misleading information about Vioxx's risks.