Yesterday’s New Jersey court ruling against Merck in yet another Vioxx lawsuit is much more than a legal and financial disaster for the big pharmaceutical manufacturer. It means that Merck has to figure out a way to paint a positive picture about itself despite compelling and damning evidence to the contrary.
So, how should Merck distance itself from its boorish and, perhaps, criminal behavior on Vioxx? Its current "feel good" advertising campaign is laughable, since it talks about how caring and compassionate the corporation is. Try telling that to the families of the many Vioxx victims.
I think it’s time for Merck to step up to the plate, admit fault, set aside an agreed upon dollar figure that will alleviate the pain and suffering of the victims’ families and move on. But, before they move on, Merck needs to create some sort of "best standards" practice for drug reviews and marketing strategies. Taking a page out of the Texaco playbook after that company was pilloried for its horrific racial policies. Merck should go on the offensive and bring in noted experts who can help them revamp their standard operating procedures. Texaco did so, and was quickly seen as one of the most progressive and minority-friendly workplaces in the country.
Merck can turn things around, but they need to admit fault, yank the self-serving corporate campaign and get to work creating a world-class product review and marketing support process. Until then, their image and reputation will continue to take hits.