Merck swears off ghostwriting in settlement

Merck made a $58 million deal to settle claims of deceptive Vioxx advertising with a 29 attorneys general. The states had alleged that Merck deceived consumers by concealing the "increased risks" linked to the now-withdrawn painkiller. Of course, $58 million pales next to the $4.85 billion Merck has agreed to pay to Vioxx patients (and survivors) who can prove they had heart attacks, strokes, or other serious side effects.

One interesting facet of the deal: Merck has pledged to give up ghostwriting. Yep, that's right--about a month after the Journal of the American Medical Association said some published Vioxx studies were written, not by their prestigious bylined authors, but by hired guns, Merck is promising not to do that anymore. At the time, Merck defended the practice, saying the JAMA accusations were false and misleading. (And the company didn't admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, either.) For its part, the journal called ghostwriting--not just as practiced by Merck--"bad science and bad research practice." We wonder whether other drugmakers might volunteer to go cold turkey, too.

- see the WSJ Health Blog item
- check out the article in the Star-Ledger
- read the Washington Post story