Grand Jury Probe Targets Merck Marketing Practices

February 6, 2008
Pharmaceutical Executive

Volume 0, Issue 0

Merck is under investigation for allegedly pushing physicians to prescribe Vioxx for unapproved use. Federal investigators are scrutinizing Merck?s marketing and sales practices in search of shady business tactics.

Vioxx is the target of a grand jury probe, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. The paper states that the US Attorney's Office of the District of Massachusetts is examining Merck's marketing practices to see if the pharma manufacturer engaged in off-label marketing of Vioxx.

The drug was pulled from the market when it was deemed a high risk for heart attacks and strokes. The company is in the process of shelling out more than $4.85 billion to settle lawsuits with people who were hurt from the drug.

Pharm Execreported in November that Merck will establish one fund worth $4 billion for heart attacks and another worth $850 million for strokes. The payment for each plaintiff will be decided on a case-by-case basis using a graduated-risk point system, including age and risk factors. The maximum restitution is estimated to be between $1 million and $1.5 million.

The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources in its report, and Merck refused to comment. However, lawyers following the Vioxx situation told Pharm Exec that a grand jury probe is possible, though if it were ongoing it would be extremely secretive.