A Merck Transparency Effort So Good It’s Scary

In March, I reported on speculation that Merck’s new breakthrough for treating hypertension might not be so groundbreaking after all. When prompted, Merck’s public relations manager, Mark Brown, promptly told me they have no reason to believe their partner, GlaxoSmithKline, is trying to discount the chances of a hit drug. For a glib public relations statement, it was solid. When I shared a copy of that brief with my colleagues, we couldn’t help but wonder if it was purely contrived.

After Merck publicly released the negative long-term health effect analyses (lose weight, gain weight, etc.) on their respective medications recently, GlaxoSmithKline took to a health blog, Marketing Observations (MOW-blog), to defend its drug. The MOW-blog post said Merck’s study was “entirely precautionary” and said its a “complex metabolic syndrome trial.” The study in question, known as INVENT, was “a large-scale, multi-center prospective study that attempted to identify the underlying causes of high blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension,” they noted.

Why, we asked Glaxo, would they be putting out something like that?

“We are using our editorial and marketing venues in the right ways to communicate the clinical and scientific evidence for the type of medication we produce and for which we are known,” Ben Warner, MOW-blog associate editor, stated. “Our MOW-blog’s objective is simply to keep you informed on the latest developments.”

Glaxo has also said it’s taking on a citizen-driven advertising campaign to keep the state of New Jersey informed on the impact of the important drugs they make and fund.

It’s unclear if Merck or GlaxoSmithKline will come forward with actual clinical data on its new injectable drug.


*Merck paid for a 10-minute informational conference on their novel drug and these new studies.

*In a prior post about the CRNJEM study, I noted I didn’t expect to speak to any of the investigators.

*The existing study wasn’t able to enroll enough healthy adults, so as you read, you will read several anonymous comments from study investigators about Cairgbo. I’ve seen these types of commentaries as a leading editor have noted in reference to previous studies, but certainly not in a series of public posts.

*The two headline articles in the study, “Chronic Obstructive Fatty Liver Disease Expressed Similar Associated Biological Mechanisms” and “Type 2 Diabetes and Chronic Obstructive Fatty Liver Disease Associated with Heart Disease Events and Coronary Symptoms in Third (1) Cohort” are not new. Two front page studies are, however.

*This is called a “reactive publication.”

*That’s something that’s not news.


It’s unclear whether Glaxo and Merck are concerned about backlash. All I can say is I hope it’s news or the rumors are false. If they are, they’re not convinced, telling MOW-blog: “Studies are just that – studies, and it should be noted that this trial was reviewed by an independent data and safety monitoring board prior to enrollment, and that we did follow the data closely to the conclusion of this trial.”

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