Field of Science

new members for Vioxx Hall of Shame

Back in May, I created a list of medical researchers who had been paid by Merck to conduct studies of Vioxx (rofecoxib), and who had helped Merck "prove" that Vioxx was safe. It later turned out, as many of us now know, that Vioxx substantially increased the risk of heart attacks in some patients. Unfortunately, this risk wasn't known to the public until multiple patients had died.

What made their behavior particularly egregious was that, in many cases, the doctors hadn't even written the articles - the articles had been written by Merck employees or contractors, and the doctors' names had been added only when the article was submitted for publication. This violates multiple ethical standards for research and scholarship.

Well, my list wasn't complete, and I learned recently of a few additional names that should be added. Chief among them is Marvin Konstam, a Tufts University professor who is also an advisor to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at NIH. In addition to his Merck-supported articles on Vioxx (see the list below), he recently wrote an article in support of medical devices produced by a heart device company that he works for. He recently switched his affiliation from NIH to Tufts after he was named in the JAMA article about ghost writing as one of many researchers who allowed his name to be attached to articles that he didn't write.
So here are some additions to the
Vioxx Wall of Shame (Addendum)

Martin Konstam, M.D., Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston
Matthew R. Weir, M.D., University of Maryland Hospital, Baltimore
These two researchers are the first two authors on
"Cardiovascular thrombotic events in controlled, clinical trials of rofecoxib."
Circulation. 2001 Nov 6;104(19):2280-8. They also jointly authored a review paper called "Current perspective on the cardiovascular effects of coxibs," Cleve Clin J Med. 2002;69 Suppl 1:SI47-52.

More recently, Konstam was a co-author of another Vioxx study (Bresalier et al., N Engl J Med. 2005 Mar 17;352(11):1092-102) that reported - somewhat to Dr. Konstam's credit - an increased risk of heart attack associated with Vioxx.

I should add that the original JAMA article included a much longer list than my Wall of Shame. Dr. Konstam's name only came to my attention because of the new controversy, reported in the Boston Globe and elsewhere, over his conflict of interest involving a medical device company.

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