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Wednesday, May 17th 2006

Spread The Blame

In The Pipeline goes over a Wall Street Journal article on NEJM’s response and denouncement of Merck. Basically, you come away with the sense that the Journal’s overzealous condemnation of Merck, an apparent attempt to turn focus from itself, is right at the line of being malicious and dishonest.

Every Vioxx plantiff jury verdict is looking better every day. Thank God twelve random people are so smart.

From the WSJ article,

Perhaps the most sensational allegation in the journal’s expression of concern was that the authors of the November 2000 article deleted heart-related safety data from a draft just two days before submitting it to the journal for publication. The journal said it was able to detect this by examining a computer disk submitted with the manuscript.

The statement was ambiguous about what data the authors deleted, hinting that serious scientific misconduct was involved. “Taken together, these inaccuracies and deletions call into question the integrity of the data,” the editors wrote.

In reality, the last-minute changes to the manuscript were less significant. One of the “deleted” items was a blank table that never had any data in it in article manuscripts. Also deleted was the number of heart attacks suffered by Vioxx users in the trial — 17. However, in place of the number the authors inserted the percentage of patients who suffered heart attacks. Using that percentage (0.4 percent) and the total number of Vioxx users given in the article (4,047), any reader could roughly calculate the heart-attack number.