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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 14805

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Silverman E.
Vytorin: A Top Ten Public Relations Blunder
Pharmalot 2008 Dec 11

Full text:

Imagine the distinction of making a list of the clueless that includes tin-ear auto execs taking corporate jets to testify before Congress and bailout recipient AIG spending nearly half a million dollars to entertain at a swanky retreat. Well, that’s exactly where Merck and Schering-Plough execs find themselves in the annual ranking of Top 10 PR Blunders by Fineman Public Relations.
In fact, the Vytorin debacle ranked No. 6 in the 2008 list and earned this opprobrium: “prescription for a blunder.” How does one accomplish such a feat? Fineman offers this: “Market Vytorin and its Zetia sidekick with a memorable $100 million plus advertising campaign. Withhold study results showing that the combo doesn’t work as claimed…for 21 months.
“Watch the drugs pull $5.2 billion in revenue in 2007 alone. Side effects, though, may include widespread consumer backlash, around 140 civil class-action lawsuits, and the unwelcome attentions of Congress, the US Department of Justice and a coalition of 35 state attorneys general…Merck and Schering-Plough allegedly didn’t release the results due to internal scientific concerns (reportedly because) there were reasons to doubt the study…
“Under pressure, Merck and Schering-Plough pulled their quirky ‘Food and Family’ ads, but dwindling investor confidence still pushed Merck stock down to Vioxx-era levels. Martha Rosenberg of opined that ‘Merck is repeating its mistakes…It’s getting tough to find any Merck drug that can hold up to scrutiny.’ ”
To be fair, Merck and Schering-Plough execs, not the public relations staffs, are ultimately responsible for any blunder. They make the decisions and rely on their subordinates to craft the messages and images. After all, there are some messes you just can’t clean up (take a look).
No word on whether Fineman will hold an awards dinner, but Fred Hassan and Dick Clark would have to be the representatives on the invitation list. Here is the Fineman Top 10, by the way.


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Email a Friend influence multinational corporations effectively, the efforts of governments will have to be complemented by others, notably the many voluntary organisations that have shown they can effectively represent society’s public-health interests…
A small group known as Healthy Skepticism; formerly the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing) has consistently and insistently drawn the attention of producers to promotional malpractice, calling for (and often securing) correction. These organisations [Healthy Skepticism, Médecins Sans Frontières and Health Action International] are small, but they are capable; they bear malice towards no one, and they are inscrutably honest. If industry is indeed persuaded to face up to its social responsibilities in the coming years it may well be because of these associations and others like them.
- Dukes MN. Accountability of the pharmaceutical industry. Lancet. 2002 Nov 23; 360(9346)1682-4.