Angry Doctor

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Where patients come first"

That's the slogan Merck, the manufacturer of Vioxx uses.

The company's Values read:

"Our business is preserving and improving human life. All of our actions must be measured by our success in achieving this goal."

"We are committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. We are responsible to our customers, to Merck employees and their families..."

"In discharging our responsibilities, we do not take professional or ethical shortcuts."

Google or Blog-search up 'Vioxx trial' and you will find many sites on the latest information on how the Vioxx saga is playing out.

While I am not sure whether it is possible to prove conclusively if a person died from Vioxx use (and Vioxx use alone), I think it speaks volumes about people's perception of the big pharmas from the way Merck is treated in the media.

When all the trials are completed, and all the compensation paid up, will anyone really be a winner?



  • "When all the trials are completed, and all the compensation paid up, will anyone really be a winner?"

    Oh yes I know who would be winners.

    1) The lawyers involved in the case
    2) The smart stockbrokers and speculators that lucky enough play the pharma stocks to their advantage.

    That's how the world works isn't it?

    By Blogger Dr Oz bloke, At December 15, 2005 11:37 am  

  • hmmm, this touches on something that gets me worked up.

    Big Pharma

    personally, i think the main reason why the state of affairs is the way it is today is because of patent rights and, of course, the accompanying $$ *ka-ching*

    There are many natural remedies which no business-minded corporations would want to do research in, simply because the chemicals that may be useful in treating diseases are not patent-able. Correct me if I'm wrong but for a drug to qualify for patent, it has to be substantially different from those found in the natural state and natural chemicals are not patented. So why do research in a loss-making venture?

    What got me really pissed off during my med sch years was the way a lot of healthcare 'professionals' kept dissing traditional or TCM remedies. After all, TCM can't be all that wrong with 5000 years of history behind it.

    Anyway, I have a sneaking suspicion that there's more money to be made by treating sick people than preventing illnesses. You know, it's ironic but as healthcare workers, we look forward but also dread the day when everyone takes care of their health such that very people fall ill. So where's the dough gonna come from?....

    By Blogger andrew, At December 15, 2005 1:22 pm  

  • Andrew,

    That day is already here starting with me.

    Like I said before and I want to re-iterate, the future taxi drivers of Singapore will have an MBBS. They will join the ranks of the MBAs now plying our streets.

    China is producing Western medical doctors WITH TCM training by the hundreds of thousands per annum. Some of these hardy and resourceful folks would most certainly find their way in so long as the exchange rate of RMB to the S$ is approx. 5 to 1. Our exchange rates will not change much because it is fully backed by external reserves but our pool of unemployed doctors will most certainly enlarge.

    By Blogger uglybaldie, At December 15, 2005 4:19 pm  

  • Dear Uncle uglybaldie,

    The healthcare industry is heavily regulated by the govt in every country. Don't think what China is doing to its healthcare professionals will rob the local healthcare professionals their livelihood lah...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 15, 2005 4:46 pm  

  • Annonymous,

    Don't forget that free trade and deregulation is now the vogue. Globalization is the word on everyone's lips now meeting in Hong Kong. The next favourite word is "liberalization".You want to depend on continued government regulation to protect the healthcare industry and specifically jobs of doctors in Singapore perpetually? Dream on.

    As it is, even the private hospitals are now full of foreign looking doctors, nurses, radiologists, lab technicians and so on. It suits me fine because I've got more talents to choose from.

    By Blogger uglybaldie, At December 15, 2005 5:03 pm  

  • ah yes, the magic 'G' word - globalization...

    talking about outsourcing, i hear that radiology services are being outsourced now. apparently digital images of scans, x-rays etc are being sent overseas and there's a radiologist in some other country who'll look at it before transmitting his/her opinion on the scans back to Singapore.

    still on that thread, i called up the HP technical helpline a few months ago and apparently the guy who picked up the phone was in a call centre in another country. well, service wasn't very satisfactory, not through anyone's fault but just that it was difficult bridging the communication gap. in the end, i had to call a direct line to someone local to solve my problem...

    By Blogger andrew, At December 16, 2005 9:13 am  

  • Ah! Uglybaldie is always right.

    Globalisation. It also refers to Singapore doctors too. Why stay in Singapore and be a taxi driver when you can go elsewhere and be a coveted doctor?

    And I'm not just talking about Australia. I know of doctors in Thailand and Vietname that are making good livings there.

    Another thing is that TCM and natural rememdies are now increasingly being recognized by western allopathic medicine. The evidence is mounting. It's merely a matter of updating and learning and improving as a physician.

    Doctors should get off their butts and get down to improving their knowledge and skills. If chinese doctors are doing it, it's only right. Compete or else be left behind.

    I'm sure those doctors who would end up being taxi drivers merely deserve their fates.

    By Blogger Dr Oz bloke, At December 16, 2005 9:53 am  

  • Hmmm... so far, I've only heard of Drs to become fulltime homemaker, or Pastor/ministry worker...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 16, 2005 10:40 am  

  • muahahaha, i'm back...*burp*

    anyways, i just looked up the NEJM editorial (2004, 351:1707-1709) that's critical of Merck's conduct over the Vioxx case and here are some quotes from it:

    "...annual sales "(of Vioxx) "had topped $2.5 billion..."

    "Merck was spending more than $100 million per year in direct-to-consumer advertising..." (presumably in response to the mounting evidence against the safety of Vioxx)

    The article made a conclusion which got me thinking. What the article suggested was that Merck would have saved the $100 million and gained better PR had it been upfront in the first place.

    Well, if I were to make $2.5 billion, spending 100 mil or 4% of what I made is (to quote the wife of a famous local person) peanuts

    Bad publicity be damned *ka-ching*

    By Blogger andrew, At December 16, 2005 12:32 pm  

  • Check out this blog:

    It seems Vioxx's chief scientist sold his shares worth $32 million before the bubble burst.

    So far the first plaintiff was awarded $250 million (but that's likely to be reduced to up to the state's legal limit).

    To make the total awards punitive, the judges need to award to total at least $4 billion or so (Vioxx was worth more than $1 billion a year fo about 4 years).

    With about 7000 cases pending...

    By Blogger angry doc, At December 16, 2005 12:50 pm  

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