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Merck Created Phony Peer-Review Medical Journal

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the do-they-meet-atop-the-space-needle-or-what dept.

Medicine 213

Hugh Pickens writes "Don't believe everything you read on the internet is a good rule to follow, but it turns out that you can't even believe a 'peer reviewed scientific journal' as details emerge that drug manufacturer Merck created a phony, but real sounding, peer-review journal titled the 'Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine' to publish data favorable to its products. 'What's sad is that I'm sure many a primary care physician was given literature from Merck that said, "As published in Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, Fosamax outperforms all other medications...."' writes Summer Johnson in a post on the website of the American Journal of Bioethics. One Australian rheumatologist named Peter Brooks who served as an 'honorary advisory board' to the journal didn't receive a single paper for peer-review in his entire time on the board, but it didn't bother him because he apparently knew the journal did not receive original submissions of research. All this is probably not too surprising in light of Merck's difficulties with Vioxx, the once $2.5 billion a year drug that was pulled from the market in September 2004, after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in long-term users resulting in payments by Merck of $4.85 billion to settle personal injury claims from former users, but it bears repeating that 'if physicians would not lend their names or pens to these efforts, and publishers would not offer their presses, these publications could not exist.'"

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Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (5, Interesting)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 5 years ago | (#27803979)

I'd be very surprised if the ACCC did not investigate. Looks like a slam-dunk case under s 52 of the Trade Practices Act.

I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's future! (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#27803997)

Oh no. They will get a fine far less than the money they made doing it, which is corp-speak for "please keep doing it." None of the executives will get any time. None of the doctors involved will get a reprimand, heck, this is just an advertisement that they play ball. On to the next corporate gig.

Re:I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's futu (5, Funny)

!coward (168942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804065)

Apparently the mods had a good night out.. Every single comment so far has been moded "Funny". And I'm pretty sure most of them weren't. A poster further down suggests that we may be dealing with shills.. But I shudder to think that slashdot is such a high-profile news site for drug companies, that they'd bother. So I'm going with drunk/stoned or otherwise giddy mods getting their rocks off.

Hmm.. "2009 A H1N1 flu" (or whatever it is that they've decided to call it) doesn't mess with your brain like that, right? Heh, not to worry -- if they are infected, I'm sure it won't spread.. Who're they gonna infect from their Mom's basement anyway? (bad taste? too soon? ok, I apologize.. carry on)

Re:I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's futu (4, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804081)

the article forgot ...and publishers would not offer their presses, AND MANUFACTURERS DID NOT OFFER THEIR MONEY TO SAID PHYSICIANS AND PUBLISHERS these publications could not exist

Re:I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's futu (2, Funny)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804149)

Who're they gonna infect from their Mom's basement anyway?

My Mom's house doesn't have a basement, you inconsiderate clod! I live in her den!

Re:I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's futu (5, Funny)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804169)

My Mom's house doesn't have a basement, you inconsiderate clod! I live in her den!

Your mom's a furry?

Re:I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's futu (5, Funny)

sunwukong (412560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804223)

Ok, now where are all the funny funny modding moderators?

Re:I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's futu (2, Interesting)

AnalPerfume (1356177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804333)

Hienie flu? Is that not caused by diet? Just because someone farts a lot does not make them contagious. Mind you, I wouldn't put it past companies like Merck to sell placebo cures for a non-existent problem.

Re:I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's futu (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805157)


Haven't you ever seen "How to Get Ahead in Advertising?" Placebos are for beginners. The real experts first make you actually suffer a problem (ostensibly self-induced), then they start selling you the cure.

Re:I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's futu (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805263)

Haven't you ever seen "How to Get Ahead in Advertising?" Placebos are for beginners. The real experts first make you actually suffer a problem (ostensibly self-induced), then they start selling you the cure.

Like the fich company that, for some reason, their salmon was white instead of pink, so they advertised it as "guaranteed not to turn pink in the can."

A true claim, but still unethical.

Or cigarette manufacturers early claims that smoking would help you lose weight - how much does a lung weigh?

Re:I sense a serious hand-slapping in Merck's futu (4, Informative)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805339)

suggests that we may be dealing with shills.. But I shudder to think that slashdot is such a high-profile news site for drug companies, that they'd bother.

I once had a job offer to be an "online forum participant", you needed to have already established identities in many popular discussion boards and be willing to create more and maintain them with daily participation.

Astroturfing is apparently done now by hiring a company with shills established where you want to have a say, not by specific companies engaging the forums directly.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1, Insightful)

JordanL (886154) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804079)

if physicians would not lend their names or pens to these efforts, and publishers would not offer their presses, these publications could not exist.

Why is it the publishers job to censor or police what people publish?

I can understand why it would be a professional consideration for physicians to not assist something like this, but going after the publisher morally is crazy. Let's not start witch hunting now.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1, Flamebait)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804147)

They took money to publish, discreetly, something which appeared to be peer-reviewed research but wasn't (including steps to avoid academicians even noticing, such as not creating web/electronic access). It's corruption plain and simple. How the hell can you possibly think there's nothing morally wrong with this? You're either a troll, shill, or moron. There are no other possibilities, which one is it?

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1, Troll)

JordanL (886154) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804177)

A publisher takes words that someone wants to print, and recreates them in a distributable format.

What happens in your perfectly black and white world if Joomla is used by Al-Qaeda to plot an attack?

They took money to do their fucking job.

Because I disagree with a premise, yet not the conclusion, I'm either a troll, shill or moron. Slashdot at its finest. Sounds like a faith based argument to me.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (4, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804243)

People need to be informed of the other kinds of 'jobs' that the companies they do business with perform. It will help them make rational decisions about who they want to do business with. Where they want to get their books published, where they want to get their colon checked, who they want to buy their drugs from, you know, that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, people do not like it to be known that they are in the side business of helping kill random strangers. It tends to put a damper on business. So we have governments and courts. But the word never seems to get out to enough people, and it is just ever so easy to ignore the deaths of random strangers. They are just a statistic connected at one remove to the publisher of a fake journal.

Suppose I am a publisher. Suppose I take a job from the mafia, to print and put up a bunch of fliers offering $10,000 for your nut sack, JordanL? And suppose your nut sack is delivered to the mafia, should I be partially liable for your loss?

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804303)

Suppose I am a publisher. Suppose I take a job from the mafia, to print and put up a bunch of fliers offering $10,000 for your nut sack, JordanL? And suppose your nut sack is delivered to the mafia, should I be partially liable for your loss?

First, my answer: Yes. At least in this one specific case, yes. Any time not involving genitals however, no.

Next. my opinion: Wow.. just wow

Finally, get off my sac

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804459)

This is not as outlandish a scenario as it seems. JordanL scrotum is very valuable on the black market. They use it as an appetite suppressant in Asia. Or so I've been told. I have never hunted JordanLs for sport or profit. Objection! Leading the witness!

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (5, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804489)

Suppose I am a publisher. Suppose I take a job from the mafia...

If I were a publisher by the name of Elsevier, I would be very, very careful what journals I accept to publish. Elsevier is a very high profile outfit, publishing most of the reputable journals in my discipline (biotech) and many others. Backing up a shonky outfit like this was ill-considered, and whoever's idea it was deserves to be fired.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (2, Insightful)

MrMr (219533) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804813)

Even Elsevier is subject to Sturgeon's second law.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804979)

I dunno. That's sort of a cop out. If you bill yourself as a premier publisher of respectable medical journals, you should take whatever extra effort is required to avoid being subject to Stugeon2.

To my mind, this statement is no more insightful than, "Shit happens." Any company wiling to offload its responsibilities by invoking S2 is on its way out.

But maybe that was Merck's ultimate goal. Maybe they meant to not only create a single bogus journal, but also to undermine the credibility of all journals by bringing down a major publisher.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (2, Funny)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804967)

Good post. But... "shonky"? Never heard that word.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (5, Informative)

sy5t3m (1349857) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804327)

The article says that it was published by Elsevier. If they were just a printing company, I'd agree with you, but they are claiming to be more than that.
http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/intro.cws_home/ataglance [elsevier.com]

As the world's leading publisher of science and health information, Elsevier serves more than 30 million scientists, students, and health and information professionals worldwide.

We are proud to play an essential role in the global science and health communities and to contribute to the advancement of these critical fields. By delivering world-class information and innovative tools to researchers, students, educators and practitioners worldwide, we help them increase their productivity and effectiveness.

And from http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/intro.cws_home/mission [elsevier.com] :

That's why Elsevier partners with leading experts to publish the most authoritative and reliable information so scientists and health professionals can make critical decisions that advance scientific discovery and save lives.

At best, they were duped into lending any credibility they have to a sham. At worst, they knew that the thing was fake and went against their mission statement, yet published anyway because the money was too good to pass up.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (0, Troll)

Khyber (864651) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804835)

"Because I disagree with a premise, yet not the conclusion, I'm either a troll, shill or moron. Slashdot at its finest. Sounds like a faith based argument to me."

Nah, just your typical 7-digit UID Youth Squad, freshly brainwashed and clueless. You did nothing wrong.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805317)

Isn't that a pretty thin line you are drawing there?

In my experience, "damn fool" doesn't particularly correlate with higher or lower slashdot user numbers.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805047)

That would be like suing HP for selling the Laserjets that were used to print it.

That clearly is going too far, but going after the hosting provider does happen.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (5, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805305)

That would be like suing HP for selling the Laserjets that were used to print it.

Nope - the publisher actually gets to see the content before publishing it. What if they put out a magazine full of kiddie porn? Could they claim "we only publish it?" Didn't think so.

You're confusing the publisher with the printer. The publisher is responsible for hiring the editors (you know, the people who are supposed to be reviewing what's published - unless it's slashdot), etc., and will contract with a printing company for the actual print run.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1)

Chlorine Trifluoride (1517149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805431)

An academic journal publisher is not a place of universal free speech. Would you get medical advice from The /b/ Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine?

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (-1, Troll)

mgblst (80109) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804477)

Maybe we should blame the roads department as well, because surely they used roads to drive to the publishers. Shouldn't we stop these people from using innocent roads. I suggest we set up road blocks at every intersection to stop these sort of heinous crimes.

Publishers shouldn't censor, they should just publish.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (4, Funny)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804719)

Publishers shouldn't censor, they should just publish.

Damn straight.

And on that subject, don't miss the newest issue of Elsevier's Journal of Holistic Electromagnetic Medicine, where my peer-reviewed article "Correlation Between H1N1 Swine Flu Propagation and Near-Field WiFi Radiation from Linux-Based Routers" just came out. I understand it's already garnering favorable attention in Stockholm.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (2, Interesting)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804997)

No, publishers should and do exercise editorial and quality controls over the content that they publish. CNN is a publisher. If I write a news article, should I be able to get it published as news if I pay them enough money?

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (2, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805311)

No, publishers should and do exercise editorial and quality controls over the content that they publish. CNN is a publisher. If I write a news article, should I be able to get it published as news if I pay them enough money?

Never happen. Fox would sue them for infringement of their business methods.

But you're right - the publisher hires the editor(s), contracts with printers and distributors, etc.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804449)

Why is it the publishers job to censor or police what people publish?

Elsevier is a major scientific publisher; articles appearing in their journals are generally considered respectable. The fact that they were willing to publish a "journal" like this one will do a lot of damage to that reputation. Researchers will be less likely to submit high-quality articles to other Elsevier journals, and university libraries will look more closely at the subscription package deals which is where the journal publishers make most of their money.

That's why.

The Case of El Naschie (Elsevier) (4, Interesting)

boombaard (1001577) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804833)

You've missed this [slashdot.org] story then?
Sadly, the blog that was initially involved in this, and where the 'riddle' was solved, seems to have removed the entire blog post + comments (lawyers?), but the posts can still be found here [blogspot.com]

Ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804891)

They wouldn't dare. Researchers will never turn down a chance to be published in the Lancet, and libraries wouldn't risk falling behind other schools by not stocking them. Clearly, they'll buy them at any price.

This situation is terrible for science.

Elsevier's weekly mag "Elsevier" is also garbage (1)

s-whs (959229) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805337)

Elsevier is also the name of a dutch weekly magazine that was one of the first things they published. It's not a scientific magazine, but it does publish articles on science by one Simone Rozendaal, a well known nutter who doesn't know anything about science nor has any interest in it consedering the bull he writes. I wrote to the publishering giving a list of all the stupendously moronic stuff he wrote, but got no reply. Suprising eh?

Examples:
He printed lies in an article about 'Benno Baksteen', a pilot and serial-liar who promotes the air travel industry. Examples of Baksteen's lies that Rozendaal puts in that article without checking:
  • 1. Schiphol spends more money on insulation than the rest of the world together.
  • 2. In the Netherlands, people complain more that the rest of the world together.

Both are complete and absolute bullshit and are easily checked, as I did and Rozendaal didn't.

Then he says about Baksteen himself that he is "192.5 cm, tall and accurate."

Accurate? This moron doesn't even know that ones length can vary by 0.5 cm (in the morning you're taller than at night) so he hasn't measured himself at different times in his youth, then found "He, it can differ by 0.5 cm!" as I found. Also note that this is a well known thing that happens with astronouts returning from trips on the Space shuttle who can be a few cm's longer, for a short while.

Another example is his nonsens about global warming being a non-issue. Note that I don't mind people not believing it, but if you don't believe it, you should have good reasons especially as that results in arguments from such people that we don't need to take any action in this area, which, if they are wrong, will be disastrous in the future. I won't dive into this as this message is getting fairly long, but I will finish with this example from long ago about acid rain. He still says that acid rain wasn't a problem (and even that completely different processes were occurring that were unknown at the time) because:

  • 1. He didn't see the tree's were in bad health (as if he's an expert on how trees should look!)
  • 2. There was no waldsterben (forests dying out) that was predicted. There bloody wasn't because a massive effort was taken to reduce sulphur output in particular! This statement is just as moronic as saying "There was no year2000 problem, because nothing happened". Nothing (or almost nothing) happened indeed in y2000, but very likely because of the massive effort to prevent the problem ans fix all the software, and not because there was no problem in software!

Author I meant is Simon Rozendaal. (1)

s-whs (959229) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805379)

Sorry about the typos above, etc. If you want to look it up, the writer's name is actually Simon Rozendaal (first name not Simone).

Also note that I gave the example of astronauts being taller when they return, because knowing this there should ring a bell when someone tells you how tall he is with 0.5cm "accuracy" as that will vary (which Rozendaal should know because of that) so even if he didn't measure how tall he was at different times in his youth, this example should give enough information to deduce this also happens when sleeping. But not with "scientific journalist" Simon Rozendaal.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (5, Interesting)

MrMr (219533) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804801)

The publisher may be deeper involved than you think; I have been offered 'special issues' of journals with favorable pieces on one of our products in the past. I never figured out if it was just one desperate sales guy or a real company policy.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (2, Insightful)

SkyDude (919251) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805421)

Why is it the publishers job to censor or police what people publish?

A publisher, at least one in the dead tree business, always served as a gatekeeper. Admitting contributions that enhanced the publication's overall presentation to the consuming readership could be printed, while flamebait and trolls were consigned to the trash bucket.

Unfortunately, that practice does not seem to have carried over to the internet.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (1)

AnalPerfume (1356177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804349)

That would be down to whether or not their lobbyists have been bribing the right people in the right positions, or whether they have the goods on the people making the decisions.

Re:Misleading or Deceptive Conduct (4, Informative)

Maelwryth (982896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804529)

The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery [ejbjs.org] might not be very happy about this as well. Especially as their slogan is, "Excellence through peer review". :)

Does it ever work? (4, Insightful)

ShanxT (1280784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804001)

Has any company ever gotten away with stuff like this in recent times? Doesn't the availability of everything on the Internet ensure that someone somewhere, doing just a little research, will call 'bullshit' when a certain journal/reviewer goes overboard in praising just one company?

Re:Does it ever work? (5, Insightful)

Airw0lf (795770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804143)

Has any company ever gotten away with stuff like this in recent times? Doesn't the availability of everything on the Internet ensure that someone somewhere, doing just a little research, will call 'bullshit' when a certain journal/reviewer goes overboard in praising just one company?

The problem is that companies never get more than a slap on the wrist for pulling stunts like this - commercial regulatory bodies in most countries are far too easy on them. As a previous poster said, it is usually a token fine and none of the executives ever get jailed. So I guess most companies do a simple calculation along the lines of:

Profit = Initial Sales from Lies - Estimated Fine when Caught - Dip in Sales from Bad Publicity.

It would seem that the "Profit" term still comes out as a big number so there is no real disincentive there unless regulatory bodies clean up their act, or the public starts voting with their dollars in a significant fashion.

Re:Does it ever work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804295)

The problem is that companies never get more than a slap on the wrist for pulling stunts like this - commercial regulatory bodies in most countries are far too easy on them.

It would seem that the "Profit" term still comes out as a big number so there is no real disincentive there unless regulatory bodies clean up their act, or the public starts voting with their dollars in a significant fashion.

While I normally agree on voting with dollars, not here. When it comes to medicine, we need to get best service possible in each individual case. If one company has best medicine for certain problem, it should be chosen. As a patient, I don't want to think about "What drug companies have shady history?" (hell, I couldn't name five drug companies if I had to but... I never have had to.) and I certainly don't want my doctor to give me inferior medicine because his ethics tell him to boycott a company...

I think that boycott should be reserved for things that can't or perhaps even shouldn't be regulated by government (IE. what companies do in other countries) but are disliked by you. When it is about a drug company giving fake info about itself and playing with our lives... There should be far stricter government regulation, not boycott.

Re:Does it ever work? (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804715)

If one company has best medicine for certain problem, it should be chosen

Sure, it should be chose... to lose its patent protection.

I don't want to think about "What drug companies have shady history?

Well, but you have to think about it, because if the company cheated on the other drug, there's a good chance that the drug that you want to take also doesn't do what the company claims.

Also, I think you're greatly overestimating the differences between drugs. Most drugs that drug companies make are useless: there are either generic equivalents that are just as good, or they are lifestyle drugs--something you could fix with nutrition and exercise.

Re:Does it ever work? (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805273)

If one company has best medicine for certain problem, it should be chosen. As a patient, I don't want to think about "What drug companies have shady history?" (hell, I couldn't name five drug companies if I had to but... I never have had to.) and I certainly don't want my doctor to give me inferior medicine because his ethics tell him to boycott a company.

If the company has a known shady history, how can you know for sure that their "best medicine for a certain problem" hasn't been propped up by bad/false studies and publications like this fake Merck one?

Re:Does it ever work? (3, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805315)

You are SERIOUSLY overestimating the value of medicine.

Many of the most significant advances in medical science over the past 100 years has to do with a better understanding of nutrition and hygiene. The fact is, "we know better" than to each much of the crap we eat which often leads to sicknesses we wouldn't otherwise get. Quite a few medicines suppress or weaken your immune system as well.

Yes, there are times in life when medications are necessary, I won't deny it. But those times are actually quite rare. But you can't build a huge industry on rare. We already know what Merck and companies like them are prepared to do in order to sell more drugs to people, so it wouldn't be stupid to look into your own medicine cabinet to see what you don't actually need.

Aspirin is good medicine. Nothing has completely replaced it. They will sell you a lot of more advanced things, but aspirin is good and it's "inferior." Quite often things are sold as newer or superior when it is actually quite the same as the thing before it but with a new combination of components or manufacturing process and most importantly, "A New Patent!" Be careful about that.

I have found that from the time I have become more aware of what I put into my body, the more healthy I have become. Eating less, eating less junk food, drinking less soda and the like are some pretty obvious ones, and are also the ones quite a few people lack the will-power to cut down on in the first place. But you could easily dig deeper into the rabbit hole -- for example, "high fructose corn syrup" is responsible for a lot of pancreatic disorders in people... a little won't hurt you, but when it's in everything you eat? Adult animals don't naturally drink milk -- it's for babies. So why do humans think they "need" it? We know why, we just don't think to question if it's true.

Prevention is truly the best way to play this game. But from the government on down, no one wants to talk about prevention when they talk about the healthcare system.

Re:Does it ever work? (1)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805331)

Agreed.

I've already begun to do this. I look for doctors who prescribe drugs only as a last resort. If they offer me a sample of something to try, I know that I've just become a guinea pig for a drug that the doctor received from a marketing campaign - and he probably didn't read the studies that vetted the drug in the first place.

With regard to Merck, it looks like this:

"Gosh, we pretty much own every G8 legislature, especially the US Congress, we're the largest lobby in the world, with some of the highest profit margins, with plenty of protection from competition, and yet, we still don't have complete control of everything. Let's create a fake journal so our drugs can pass the regulatory rigor. We can all sleep better knowing that we have our own prestigious medical journal to rely upon."

The change I want to see starts with a lifestyle change by me, because the drug companies won't change unless I do. I try to start with me first and see what happens.

Re:Does it ever work? (5, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804291)

Has any company ever gotten away with stuff like this in recent times?

Yes, I established an advertisement disguised as a medical journal for my company that hasn't yet been outed as a shill. It's called...

Wait... you clever bastard, you almost had me with that one.

Re:Does it ever work? (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804513)

Not really. This is just another "stupid salesperson" trick. I doubt anyone at the company really gave this much thought. It's just some idiot salesman "thinking outside the box."

Holy crap. (5, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804007)

I've seen a lot of seedy stuff in my time, but this might just take the cake with respect to all-time industry lows. To hell with the music industry; this is beyond reprehensible. They're playing with peoples' lives. Somebody please tell me someone's going to jail for this.

Re:Holy crap. (5, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804035)

Careful, son. You know not the power of the evil you're belittling.

I'm feeling cynical (3, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804055)

Corporations are people like you and I with a right to free speech. Merck is just presenting the scientific facts that are important to them. The so-called scientific method is just a cultural idea, not the final arbiter of 'Truth.' What is truth? Isn't it 'true' that Vioxx may have helped people? Isn't it 'true' that it didn't kill everyone?

The doctors are just looking out for themselves, and if they didn't do it, someone else would. And people's lives? Really now. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. So some people died.

Who is the government to tell people what they can and can't sell? People die all the time, but markets and corporations are eternal. Who is the government to tell people what they can and can't imbibe? Alcohol kills people, cigarettes kill people?

People die all the time, but markets and corporations are eternal. Doesn't that mean they are better than us? Who are we to tell them what to do? Oh sure, they are made up of people, but we're made up of cells. I know I don't care too much when I get a cut and a few skin and red blood cells sacrifice themselves for my well being.

In the end, a few people died so a corporation could grow. Is that so bad?

Re:I'm feeling cynical (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804205)

Heh, I just finished watching Bicentennial Man, and the robot/android wasn't given the status of a person until he gave himself a finite life span. Funny how imaginary people (who cannot be put in jail and never die) have more rights than any robot in the real world...

POTD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804563)

Awesome. Thanks.

Re:I'm feeling cynical (2, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805063)

You have a right to political free speech, but you do not have a right to commercial free speech. You also don't have a right to tell lies.

Re:I'm feeling cynical (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27805275)

You also don't have a right to tell lies.

Unless you're indoctrinating your children with religion.

Re:Holy crap. (2, Insightful)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804057)

I suppose it's fitting that you've been modded funny considering that if anyone does actually go to jail for this it won't be anyone actually in charge or ultimately responsible. Rich people [wikipedia.org] don't go to jail. If they do somehow end up in jail, it's not the jail you or I would end up in [wikipedia.org] under similar charges.

The only real way to hurt these assholes is to completely boycott their company and products and tank their company. Of course that doesn't guarantee that they won't land on their feet, but anything else is just wishful thinking.

Re:Holy crap. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804101)

Well, *all* of the Vioxx users I know are suffering from the forced boycott. See ... Vioxx isn't all that bad. The risk of death was pretty low compared to living in pain all the fucking time. But no, only talk radio mentioned that part. There are literally millions of people suffering now who would be willing to take the chance of death to be able to live again.

I know, the solution is government health care, with absolutely no accountability at all. It fucking near killed me. Trust Obama with the foreign policy -- much better then Bush. Trust "civil servants" with your life? Retarded!

Re:Holy crap. (2, Insightful)

ArghBlarg (79067) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804229)

You know what, it's great that some people you know were helped by Vioxx. That's honestly great.

But that in *no* way excuses the fact that, due to the drug company's *blatant lies* about the possible effects that it may have, some other people you DON'T know, may have FRICKING DIED from Vioxx.

But hey, if the people who were baldly deceived by drug companies' LIES and died/suffered as a result were all people YOU DIDN'T KNOW PERSONALLY, then that's totally OK I guess.

The fact the company had to make a whole FAKE JOURNAL up to shove their product says volumes about how much confidence they really had about the product.

Re:Holy crap. (4, Insightful)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805325)

I don't know about Vioxx, but perhaps it's not the only drug out there that can help, or maybe the only one your health insurance company was willing to pay for.

My niece sufferers from junior rheumatoid arthritis, within a year of the symptoms first appearing she was in a wheelchair, eventually she managed to see a specialist who put her on to a new drug treatment and very rapidly she went from being wheelchair bound to being a healthy and normal teenager.

The treatment requires 2 injections a week at a cost of £500 a week, luckily this is in the UK and its paid for by the National Health Service, a system we all pay into from our pay packets. If she had been under the American system would she have this drug or would she still be in constant pain in a wheelchair? It took a year of trials of various different medicines before she was prescribed something effective but she has it now and will continue to have it for as long as its needed.

America is a great country but the health system is a complete disgrace. Hopefully Obama will address this issue.

Re:Holy crap. (5, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804061)

I've seen a lot of seedy stuff in my time, but this might just take the cake with respect to all-time industry lows.

How about drug companies treating thousands of doctors to a free night out in a posh restaurant every week for years, so that they can be informed about the latest products.

Re:Holy crap. (1)

drunkenoafoffofb3ta (1262668) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804365)

I think you're making the very big assumption that they made up the data AND the journal to promote their drug... andthe drug is bad.

More likely, they have a boring drug with boring results that's #4 to the market, with #3 efficacy. This is just laziness on merck's part so that reps can show results quickly. Don't worry. Doctors, in general, aren't stupid. They see right through this.

Re:Holy crap. (3, Funny)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805013)

You're right. You know what? I'm canceling my vacation to Australasia in protest!

This comment is Funny (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804049)

Considering the fact that all the previous comments were immediately moderated Funny, I suppose this one will be also.

Do Merck shills lurk on Slashdot trying to douse peoples' karma?????

RRGH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804117)

BURN

ahahaha (0, Flamebait)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804121)

[citation needed]

And now an entire generation of idiots believe everything they read in such "authoritative sources" and distrust everything else.

Revolting! (2, Interesting)

Kotoku (1531373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804123)

I am nearly speechless. This is honestly one of the most revolting acts of subterfuge I've ever seen committed on the American People (well..other than our current issues). Merck creates phoney studies so they can pass potentially unsafe drugs to the masses?

They should be run out of town for this. Sadly I see nothing major happening to them.

Well now... (5, Insightful)

toby (759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804195)

Who's to say only the "American people" got fucked over? It's usually the rest of us.

When some greedy corporation in the US gets the urge to over-reach common sense in the name of profit, people die. Hello Halliburton, [agonist.org] Blackwater - sorry, "Xe" [truthnews.us] - Merck, Chevron, [ecoworldly.com] Shell, [globalresearch.ca] Union Carbide, [american.edu] Monsanto [i-sis.org.uk] - This is going on all around you, every day. It's just the kind of business y'all have been trained to tolerate, encourage and sponsor. And let's be frank, the absurd US military budget is largely what it is so that they can keep doing it with impunity. Nice little system.

If a corporation is legally a person, then let them be shut down and incarcerated like the murderers and thieves they are.

Re:Well now... (5, Informative)

G-Man (79561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804433)

Umm, you are aware that Shell is a *Dutch*, company, right? Getting a little blood on your hands for a few extra dollars/pounds/yen/euros/whatever is hardly just an American corporate phenomenon. TotalFinaElf was plenty happy to develop oil fields for Hussein under the utterly corrupt Oil for Food program, while ordinary Iraqis starved. Toshiba illegally sold submarine propeller tech to the Soviet Union. Shall we even get started on Chinese companies and food safety?

Other stuff (4, Interesting)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804133)

My father, who is a psychiatrist, was looking over a medical journal one day and showed me an article where some researcher---in a study funded by one of the drug companies, I forget which one---had determined that whatever SSRI the company was peddling was effective against bipolar disorder. This had been a six-week trial.

I didn't understand. My father explained to me that yes, SSRIs tend to be effective as short-term treatment for bipolar disorder, but that over the long term, they actually can make bipolar symptoms worse. So the study was cherry-picked: deceptive, because what is good in the short term can be bad in the long term. Many bipolar people get put on antidepressants, which are counterproductive. And doctors often go along with it, because the drug companies have been intentionally misleading them in publications.

Re:Other stuff (4, Insightful)

oneirophrenos (1500619) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804179)

So the study was cherry-picked: deceptive, because what is good in the short term can be bad in the long term.

This is why drugs oughtn't be marketed to patients. If an ad says a drug has fared well in a study, Joe Regular will assume it's automatically a good thing. He doesn't know a good study from a bad one, or whether a medical journal is reputable - or even exists. A physician has a far greater probability of distinguishing bullshit from actual facts than a layperson, though it doesn't of course always hold true.

Re:Other stuff (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804535)

Why is Joe allowed to choose his food then ?
Deceptive ads are illegal, stupidity is still legal. As long as Joe can freely get all the good information he needs, but uses his own money to buy shitty drugs, I'm perfectly fine with that.

Re:Other stuff (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804575)

Why is Joe allowed to choose his food then ?

Careful. Start down that path, and the next thing you know the pinkos will be demanding National Lunch Insurance to defray the cost of the approved foods.

-jcr

Re:Other stuff (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804681)

Of course, we ARE talking about prescription drugs here. If we accept that a substance is so dangerous (at least potentially, when used the wrong way, in the wrong situation etc.) that Joe should not be able to buy it at all on his own, then the notion that it shouldn't be advertised to him either makes sense. Or, put another way - if a drug can be advertised to him, then how do you justify not allowing him to buy it?

There's also the issue of truth (and lies) in advertising. Cherry-picking studies to create an impression that medication FOO will help with condition BAR when in reality, it will actually and demonstrably make it worse, should be illegal as well. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is - the relevant laws just aren't enforced the way they should be.

Re:Other stuff (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805249)

This is why drugs oughtn't be marketed to patients. If an ad says a drug has fared well in a study, Joe Regular will assume it's automatically a good thing.

I, for one, would love to see prescription drug advertising banned. The US and New Zealand are the only "developed" countries where it's not banned. I don't even understand the point - it's 10 seconds of hokey conversations about what it's for, followed by 20 seconds of "but you really ought to talk to your doctor about it, because it's got these massive side effects." My favorite right now is the Advair commercial which tells you that one of the side effects of this asthma medication is death by asthma! The treatment really is worse than the disease.

That's like saying Lipitor will make your arteries completely clog, or Imitrex will make your head explode.

But what would we watch during commercial breaks?

Re:Other stuff (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805349)

I like the Aciphex commercials, because spelling it that way doesn't stop if from sounding like Assiphex and I giggle.

Re:Other stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804883)

This is very much in the corporate character - short term benefit always wins.

Re:Other stuff (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805021)

It's like the old Pepsi challenge. Pepsi typically wins in the "sip" test, even among Coke fans. Why does Coke outsell Pepsi 2:1 worldwide, then? Well, drinking a whole can is a whole different experience from taking a sip.

Re:Other stuff (2, Insightful)

Mutatis Mutandis (921530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805303)

Keep in mind that pharmaceutical companies don't have full freedom in the design of trials. It is, fortunately, a very highly regulated activity.

This trial was probably reviewed by boards of experts and blessed by the regulatory organizations, who approved both the length of the study and the criteria for enrolment. A six-week study may very well produce misleading results, I couldn't comment on that, but it would not be the first time people defined stupid plans with the best of intentions. Typically trials are kept at a minimal length at first to reduce the risk to the volunteers, and then gradually extended in later phases of development.

Fosomax is crazy stuff (4, Interesting)

Wheat (20250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804255)

Fosomax is a crazy drug, it stops bone turnover and in some cases has lead to patients having to have their jaw bone removed. That's nasty!

    """
    Raisor was told her jaw bone was going to end up in a bucket. "They took some out, took some out, kept taking more out," Raisor said.

    They tried to save what they could. They used a metal plate for reinforcement.

    It didn't work.
    """

http://www.wave3.com/Global/story.asp?S=4911501&nav=0RZF [wave3.com]

Re:Fosomax is crazy stuff (1)

SUB7IME (604466) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804507)

It's called 'jaw osteonecrosis', generally associated with high-dose bisphosphonates used for cancer treatment.

Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine? (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804277)

I was skeptical about this this periodical since their "Bestiality" issue, which had the title headline: "Give a dog a bone."

Bones? Joints?

Oh, never mind, make up your own jokes.

Re:Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804783)

Give the dog a joint?

Forgive my language (2, Insightful)

nysus (162232) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804279)

Just who the fuck can we trust these days? What makes these executives think they can act with impunity? Oh, right, they probably can. Yay, free market!

Re:Forgive my language (4, Informative)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804561)

Yay, free market!

Big pharma does not operate in a free market. They exist in a regulatory framework consisting of thousands of laws and regulations written primarily by their own lobbyists to raise barriers to competition.

The more any industry is regulated, the more it will concentrate into fewer and larger organizations. Big companies can cope with the regulation, but the compliance costs drive smaller competitors out, or push them to be acquired by larger organizations.

If you want to see a free market in medicine, the closest you get to it is Mexico, Thailand, China, or India. There's a reason why medical tourism is a rapidly-growing market.

-jcr

Re:Forgive my language (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804657)

Big pharma does not operate in a free market. They exist in a regulatory framework consisting of thousands of laws and regulations written primarily by their own lobbyists to raise barriers to competition.

So... the pharmas are just shopping in probably the purest free-market, the buying and selling of congressmen, in order to make their own market less free to their advantage?

Sounds like "free market" is not so free and very expensive to all but the richest of us.

Re:Forgive my language (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804731)

the pharmas are just shopping in probably the purest free-market, the buying and selling of congressmen

Actually, thats a highly regulated market, too. They have to jump through a lot of hoops to buy a congressman without the congressman, the lobbyist and the buyer all landing in jail. Again, it's something that larger companies can afford to do far more easily than smaller ones.

-jcr

Re:Forgive my language (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804999)

How is it that free-marketeers can point to every giant market failure wrapped in paid-for regulatory loopholes, and get away with saying that it is evidence that everything is just not free enough? Why does this specious reasoning go unchallenged?

We just have to believe harder in the power of the invisible fisting!

Re:Forgive my language (5, Insightful)

Dasher42 (514179) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805169)

The more any industry is regulated, the more it will concentrate into fewer and larger organizations. Big companies can cope with the regulation, but the compliance costs drive smaller competitors out, or push them to be acquired by larger organizations.

That's an interesting observation, but I think it's actually the other way around. The more wealth concentrates, the more the elite will lean on the government to issue laws that secure their wealth, and tilt the odds in favor of their acquiring more. There is no non-disruptive way to hold this in check once this happens. You cannot legislate against money's corruption. People can be bought - period. This makes systems of political checks and balances incompletely, because wealth is power, power corrupts, and economic power is most other forms of power spring from.

This is why I am absolutely in favor of redistribution of wealth. I approve of Norway's lack of a sharp division between rich and poor.

Re:Forgive my language (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805429)

The more any industry is regulated, the more it will concentrate into fewer and larger organizations.

Like Ma Bell, Standard Oil, and the media companies of the late 90s?

Oh wait, no, that was un/deregulated. Huh.

Re:Forgive my language (2, Interesting)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804567)

The free market has nothing to do with this. We still have criminal statutes for a reason, although regrettably no executives will go to prison for this.

Re:Forgive my language (3, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804593)

Just who the fuck can we trust these days?

Actually, you can trust most of the people you meet. Criminals and fraudsters are still a minority.

My own policy is to trust people until and unless they show me a reason not to, and then I never trust that individual again.

-jcr

Elsevier (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804607)

The summary should mention that Elsevier published this. That's the shocking part... We already knew about Merck's lack of ethics.

So far for the need for peer-review (2, Interesting)

Xarvh (1244438) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804669)

I am ashamed to be a researcher.
Scientific journals are built on reliability and reputation, if they are willing to squander it for a few extra bucks, the entire peer-review process is dead, and modern scientific advancement with it.

Re:So far for the need for peer-review (1)

feranick (858651) | more than 5 years ago | (#27804823)

You shouldn't be ashamed. Who should be ashamed are the so called professionals that sold their name and reputation. You have the power to select the journal you submit to. They are not all the same. What a few bad apples do cannot be generalized to the majority of high quality, very respectable papers. BTW, I would refrain to call these phony journals peer-reviewed, when they clearly are not.

It's not Merck, it's MSD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804675)

Upon closer inspection of the cited sources, it turns out the company in question is not [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merck_KGaA]Merck[/url] but [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merck_Sharp_and_Dohme]MSD[/url] (Merck, Sharpe & Dohme), an unrelated American competitor. The summary could use some clarification, because it currently blames one company for another company's behaviour.

Misinformation (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27804713)

Are you muddying these waters on purpose?

This is the Merck that everyone is thinking of [wikipedia.org] ; ie, the manufacturer of Fosamax, Propecia, Singulair, Vioxx and Zocor.

That's why you have Impact Factor (5, Informative)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805045)

There are hundreds or thousands of journals with a fairly low standard. Even if they are not industry founded, they make it relatively easy for anyone to publish next to anything. I know of scientific institutions that have their own journals just so that the (lousy) researchers can publish *somewhere* and have a non-zero publication list.
That said, it is also fairly easy to see how good a scientific journal is, especially to someone who reads scientific literature. The system is not perfect, but it is better than nothing, and relies on the number of times that a single article from a journal gets cited. This metrics spawns the "Science Citation Index" [wikipedia.org] (how often did I get cited?) and "Impact Factor" [wikipedia.org] (how often, on the avearage, an article from a given journal gets cited?).
Think Google. This is exactly what the original google algorithm was using: number of times someone found an information useful / reliable as a measure of how relevant / important / interesting this information is. However, IF / SCI is much older than Google or WWW.
Both indices can be misused or manipulated. Furthermore, they differ wildly depending on the area studied (in especially, medical journals have ridicoulously high impact factors) because of the different number of citations per article and article turnover rate. Finally, it can be really hard for a new journal to get a high IF because of preferential attachement -- scientists flock to these journals that already have high impact factors.
Still, they are better than anything else.
j.

you would think he would know better? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27805105)

according to this: http://www.uq.edu.au/uqresearchers/researcher/brookspm.html Peter Brooks is the Executive Dean of Health Sciences at The University of Queensland, scary

Elsevier is more to blame than Merck (4, Interesting)

Mutatis Mutandis (921530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27805255)

It is not particularly outrageous in itself that a drug manufacturer should collect a few papers that report favourable data on its products, bundle them with a few adverts and some marketing materials, and hand them out at conferences and trade shows. This happens all the time and it does little harm because you know who the sponsor is, and of course that you should not expect full objectivity.

The problem is in the disguise: Elsevier, a respectable publisher of scientific journals, apparently has a side business "Excerpta Medica", which states on its website that "Excerpta Medica Helps Pharma Companies Fulfill 2009 Pharma Guidelines with Elsevierâ(TM)s Physician and Patient Educational Content." In other words, Excerpta Medica is a marketing organisation that serves pharmaceutical companies. It seems highly unwise for a large scientific publisher to run a side business of this nature, which screams "conflict of interest" pretty loud.

The moral figleaf is provided by the "2009 Pharma Guidelines", issued by the PhRMA. However, the PhRMA is essentially a lobby organization for the pharmaceutical companies. Being a lobbyist is not necessarily evil, and no doubt self-regulation can be a good thing, but nevertheless this figleaf is a bit too small to cover Elsevier's shame: Essentially Excerpta Medica is vowing to obey the moral standards defined by its own customers!

The selling point, of course, is obvious: Elsevier holds copyrights to a vast amount of scientific publications, both journals and books, so it can churn out impressive compilations on demand. Or, as they put it on their website "we can leverage the resources of the worldâ(TM)s largest medical and scientific publisher."

We can only hope that most of these publications will have been peer-reviewed earlier, but Excerpta's website also makes it clear that "authors take full responsibility for the content of their manuscripts" and the editor of the publication is "an outside expert". In other words, Elsevier lends it good name to promotional materials, but declines responsibility for their content.

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