Conflicts of interest in drug development: The practices of Merck & Co., Inc.
- Cite this article as:
- Hirsch, L.J. SCI ENG ETHICS (2002) 8: 429. doi:10.1007/s11948-002-0065-7
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Conflicts of interest are common and exist in academia, government, and many industries, including pharmaceutical development. Medical journal editors and others have recently criticized “the pharmaceutical industry,” citing concerns over investigator access to data, approaches to analysis of clinical trial data, and publication practices. Merck & Co., Inc. is a global, research-driven pharmaceutical company that discovers, develops, manufactures, and markets a broad range of human and animal health products, directly and through its joint ventures. Although part of its mission is to provide a superior rate of return to its investors, Merck does not believe this creates an irreconcilable conflict of interest, particularly in activities concerning clinical drug development. We employ rigorous scientific methods to design, conduct, analyze, and report results of clinical trials in the development of innovative drugs and vaccines, with a focus on meeting unmet medical needs and with an ethic that puts the interests of the patient first. This article describes Merck’s approaches to potential conflicts of interest in drug development, particularly with regard to clinical trials. We believe that proprietary interests of the Company can be respected while observing objectivity and transparency in communicating clinical research results. The standards for the review of manuscripts reporting such trials for peer-reviewed publication should be the same, whether they are from Merck or elsewhere.