Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Neutralizing," "Discrediting," or Putting Doctors on the "Bad Guys List"

The latest Vioxx trial provided some vivid allegations about how some pharmaceutical marketing folks think about doctors. Per the Associated Press report:

Some Merck & Co. employees put doctors who questioned the safety of Vioxx onto a "bad guys list" to "neutralize" or "discredit" them, according to e-mails and other internal correspondence shown to federal court jurors Monday.

The correspondence given to jurors Monday was to or from Susan L. Baumgartner, who worked for Merck as a consultant, then in market research. In videotaped testimony, she repeatedly said neither she nor anyone she knew at Merck intimidated anyone, and that the terms had nothing to do with intimidation, and were marketing jargon rather than dictionary terms.

In one, a memo from another employee, a doctor's name was included and the note, "See this - for the bad guys list."

"I didn't call it the bad guys list," Baumgartner said.

"Did you write back and say, `What is this bad guys list?'" Birchfield's voice asked.

A bit later, he asked about the phrase "physicians to neutralize."

That, said Baumgartner, meant to provide correct information so those doctors would "come to a neutral or fair position." In a memo with "discredit" under a name, she said her recollection was that the doctor "discredited himself based on his own actions."

"Discredit," Birchfield replied. "Is that future tense or past tense?"
Tell me again why I should take anything from a pharmaceutical (or device, or health care IT, or managed care organization, or hospital) marketer at face value?

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