November 25, 2004

Next-Generation Vioxx Could Escape Recall Fallout, Study Suggests

WHITEHOUSE STATION, NJ: The Vioxx recall has not appeared to have hurt competitor drugs that stop pain in a similar fashion, and that could spell good news for Merck's next pain product, Arcoxia.

New research on doctors' prescribing habits suggests that specialists show little reluctance in continuing to prescribe painkillers belonging to the same class as Vioxx - cox-2 inhibitors.

"Specialists are not going to overreact to this," said Andrea McDonough, senior director of market events at NOP World Health, a research group that surveyed 350 doctors after the recall. "[But] it's an education process for the [primary care] physicians."

McDonough noted Merck must continue to communicate about safety data, however.

"[The recall] was a real shock. This whole class was introduced to much fanfare in the 1990s," she said. "The drugs certainly have a strong safety perspective."

The reputation of Merck itself is another story. A recent Wall Street Journal article threatens to derail a crisis management effort that had previously been lauded by analysts.

The paper cites internal e-mail suggesting that Merck was aware of Vioxx's safety risks as far back as the late 1990s.

Nonetheless, McDonough noted that physicians tend to care more about the reputation of the product or their relationship with a sales rep than the company's reputation.

Arcoxia is currently awaiting FDA approval.

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. Nov 8, 2004