Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Companies behaving badly

In the news from down under comes this story of Merck behaving badly. The headline for the stories sums up the allegation quite nicely -

Vioxx maker Merck and Co drew up a doctor 'hit list'

According to the articles staff of Merck compiled a 'hist list' of doctors who had to be "neutralized" or "discredited" because they had been openly critical of Vioxx or Merck.

The articles also include an allegation that "the company used intimidation tactics against critical researchers, including dropping hints it would stop funding to institutions and claims it interfered with academic appointments."

The source of the information is a Merck internal e-mail which came out in the Federal Court in Melbourne as part of a class action suit against the company.

The e-mail included this passage that was apparently written by a Merck employee -

"We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live"

Its good that this employee responds well to constructive criticism.  

So you may be wondering what this has to do with autism.  It has to do with the motive of companies whose products have been implicated as having a relationship with autism.

I think this is a good example of what a company will do to protect its products. If there are people who are pointing out problems with a products the first response is going to be attempt to discredit the critics. It is only when presented with overwhelming evidence or when government regulatory agencies get involved or when lawsuits start flying that companies will change their tune.

So lets consider some numbers from Merck's 10-K SEC filings.

In 2003 worldwide sales of Vioxx were 2.5 billion. This was the year before sales were halted due to health concerns.

In 2008 sales of Merck vaccines were approximately 6.4 billion.

Given what Merck is alleged to have to done to protect 2.5 billion in sales, what do you think they would be willing to do protect 6.5 billion?

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