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 May 15, 2005
Merck Sales Reps Told to Downplay Vioxx Risks: Report
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Sales representatives for drug maker Merck and Co. were told to play down the heart risks of the painkiller drug Vioxx when they met with doctors, according to documents released Thursday during Congressional testimony, the Associated Press reported.

The company's 3,000 sales team members were instructed on how to aggressively push Vioxx and boost sales before it was pulled from the market last fall, the AP said.

A Feb. 9, 2001, memo warned sales representatives not to bring up heart risks linked to Vioxx. If doctors asked about such risks, the Merck sales reps were instructed to refer to a "cardiovascular card" that contained data suggesting that Vioxx could be safer than other anti-inflammatory drugs, the news service reported.

However, that card did not include data from the study that first raised concerns about the heart risks posed by Vioxx, the AP reported.

The documents were released at a House Government Reform Committee hearing, the news service said.

Merck Vice President Dennis Erb defended the company's handling of Vioxx, noting that it promptly released details of studies that first raised the possibility of heart damage -- and followed up by performing the study that ultimately led to the drug's demise, the AP said.


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