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« Swine Flu Vaccine, Genetics and Narcolepsy in Finland | Main | New Medical Journal Review: Vaccine Injury is a Documented Cause of Autism »

Merck's Medical Media Empire

Univadis Managing Editor's Note: Martin has reported extensively on the GMC proceedings against Dr. Wakefield. He has written numerous reports and books that you can  purchase at Slingshot Publications.

By Martin Walker

Today the world is so big and the miasma of information about it so opaque that even experts have to be constantly in touch 24/7, as they say. Take your eye of the ball for a second and you might regret it for a life-time. Some information, however, slips through the fog almost unnoticed; who, for instance, remembers reading 'MSD signs partnership with BMJ group' in June 2008, or two years later, 'Univadis and the Lancet announce new partnership'. Anyway only a small number of people would have read beyond the headline, bothering to work out who MSD was and what was Univadis.

Anyone who did get further than the headline might have been shocked, for MSD is of course Merck Sharp and Dohme, the massive drug company known as Merck. And Univadis®? Yes, you've guessed they're also an aspect of Merck. Merck is one of the manufacturers of MMR II and was one of the defendants in the claim brought by UK parents against three vaccine manufacturers. In fact Merck, having taken over Aventis Pasteur, which company had previously partnered them in marketing MMR II in the UK, now constitutes two of the defendant companies in that presently defunct court case.

 What does Univadis®, that part of MSD involved in both partnerships do? Like many multinationals the ever developing Merck is gradually building an empire that will not have to rely upon PR and information agencies outside it's own corporation. Univadis® (Univadis® is a registered trademark of Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, USA) is the company within a company that sets out to educate doctors globally in the Merck scriptures. Merck describes the Univadis® web site as  'a non promotional medical website of MSD pharmaceuticals, providing information and interests to UK doctors.' It has developed educational programmes in both the developing and developed world that in partnership with journals and other media organisation can give the world the Merck word. Not a word you notice about influencing the content of the BMJ or the Lancet or any kind of reciprocal arrangement that will see BMJ or Lancet articles twice round the world in milliseconds.

When Brian Deer recently wrote his two slanderous articles about Dr Andrew Wakefield in the British Medical Journal  (BMJ), the common opinion was that the BMJ was in hoc to Big Pharma — so what did one expect. It was hard to fault this opinion even without any exact detail, after all it had been thought for some time that Deer was in league with either GSK or MSD - especially during his time attending the the US cases - and with the Lancet policy having been steered for a period by a Managing Director of Elsevier who was also a non-executive board member of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK); and with Dr Richard Horton, the Lancet's editor, an enthusiastic Fellow of the drug front Academy of Medical Sciences, funded in part by MSD and GSK, and BMJ conferences supported by both GSK and MSD, it had become an oxymoron to talk of 'independent' medical journals.      

Linking Univadis®/Merck with the BMJ and the Lancet inevitably links them both to Merck's VIS (Vaccine Information Service) online —  'a comprehensive source of information, especially designed to provide healthcare professionals with the answers to their questions on vaccines' — and Media Medics a group of slatternly men and women, who long ago sold their souls for the bright lights.

Media Medics has been appointed to provide new content for the Univadis® site, and each month we will be supplying four articles on topical subjects, together with regular input to the related discussion forums. The articles are opinionated (as well as factually accurate!) and comment is encouraged. We are now looking for potential contributors ...

In this plethora of manipulated global information and somewhere in the tangle of vested interests we find a rough ball park vision of the involvement of Deer with the vaccine industry, it's still not 'smoking-gun' clear but it begins to form a focusing picture of Deer's involvement in the BMJ assaults on Dr Wakefield. When the BMJ signed up with univadis® Merck's global Medical Director, Dr Ottfried Zierenberg said:

Our collaboration with BMJ Group intends to ultimately increase the health outcome for patients, and strengthen the position of univadis® as a trusted, professional and comprehensive source (of articles and information) for the medical community.

It was still a matter of controversy only a few years ago when medical journals or their staff were found to be supported, linked or conjoined with pharmaceutical companies, today the battles are over, and the dead truth lies scattered on various battlefields, the bodies looted of their ethics. In the UK, both the Lancet and the BMJ are evidently deeply compromised. But is anyone going to take any notice? Probably not, ethics has become a foreign language in the UK.

MSD have had plenty of experience in crawling out from under responsibility, especially after their Rotavirus was heavily criticised for creating a potentially fatal bowel condition. To polish up their image following that farrago, the company employed the infamous crisis PR company APCO Worldwide based in Hong Kong, to design and execute a communication strategy that would solve the problem.

APCO, working closely with the client, took what was a complex situation involving unfamiliar medical terms and simplified the information into defined key messages. APCO then devised and executed a proactive media campaign to communicate these messages throughout Hong Kong. Central to the campaign was a media briefing, organized by APCO, which was attended by almost all print, broadcast and online media, where two leading pediatricians presented the facts, contextualized the announcements and answered questions from the press. The briefing was used to highlight a separate report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to the FDA’s announcement, which concluded that the vaccine did not increase the chance of intussusception in babies.

The APCO campaign, they say, solved the situation entirely, proving to the world that no one was damaged by MSDs Rotavirus, in fact, it appeared it was another companies product that was responsible!

APCO’s media campaign generated widespread, positive coverage of MSD’s key messages. As a result, public confidence in the vaccine was swiftly restored.

Despite the sterling work of APCO on the Rotavirus case, it seems that Merck feel the need to build a proactive media empire, with embedded medical journals, that can dissapear the tragedy of damaged children and snow-out their legal responsibilities.

 Martin J Walker is an investigative writer who has written several books about aspects of the medical industrial complex. He started focusing on conflict of interest, intervention by pharmaceutical companies in government and patient groups in 1993. Over the last three years he has been a campaign writer for the parents of MMR vaccine damaged children
covering every day of the now two year hearing of the General Medical Council that is trying Dr Wakefield and two other doctors. His GMC accounts can be found at  www.cryshame.com, and his own website is, www.slingshotpublications.com.

Comments

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Combining and swallowing up companies to hide/confuss the public is nothing new, and is been going on for a really long time.

For instants the pharmy vaccine producing Connaugh has long been swallowed up by bigger companies at least times.

The National Vaccine Information Center has done a really lot of research work on this. So much has gone - it is really wonderful that those working for the National Vaccine Information Center has kept up with it.

Thank you Martin for this article it is something that needs to be kept aware of.

One of the tragic outcomes of pharma -media efforts is that in the end our medical textbooks will contain untruthful information which has crept in via pharma media compaigns. Let me give one example that I chanced upon:
When my 7 year old grandaughter was having a very bad time even 6 weeks after her measles vaccine, I panicked and went to research measles vaccines. An Indian textbook on vaccines states clearly that one outcome of the measles vaccine is a fatal condition called Subacute scerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). However, when I went to western medical sites, I noticed that they insisted that SSPE occurs after a case of wild measles. One of the examples they cited was something like this -An older child of 7 or 10 was adopted and brought to the US where he died after some time of SSPE . The report assumed that his death ocurred due to some wild measles which he must have had as an infant in his native country. What do you think friends, Did he die from the measles he had years earlier as a small child or due to the one or two MMR's that he must have received in order to enter the United States ?
What body exists today to prevent contamination of medical textbooks with pharma misinformation?
And one result of this particular misinformation would be that VAERS will possibly not compensate parents for a case of SSPE.
The Indian textbook insists that it is still preferable to administer the measles vaccine, despite the cases of SSPE, because there are more cases of SSPE resulting from the wild measles virus. But here is the question- Not every child will contract a case of wild measles, whereas nearly every child might receive a measles vaccine. So how to we assess the comparative risk?

I hope that before its too late (if its not already) that enough people wake up to the fact, its not the Taliban or Al Qaeda that posses the greatest threat of terrorism and loss of life, health, and liberty, but PHARMA.

Cybertiger

Oh yes, that's educating people you know.

Brilliant! One must wonder if similar arrangements exist with some of our more prominent U.S. journals, such as the ones that Bruce Gellin of CDC planned to call following the FDA/CBER meeting on the discovery of PCV and HERV in vaccines. I wonder what he wanted to chat with them about? Too bad all of our U.S. journalists are afraid to ask.

In mentioning Elsevier, Jeff C reminded me of Dr Benjamin Goldacre, our curly-headed hero of everything bad about science. Nearly two years ago Dr Ben wrote of "The danger of drugs … and data" in his Saturday column in the Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/09/bad-science-medical-journals-companies

Goldacre writes,

"The first fun thing to emerge in the Australian case is email documentation showing staff at Merck made a "hit list" of doctors who were critical of the company, or of the drug. This list contained words such as "neutralise", "neutralised" and "discredit" next to the names of various doctors."

Don't you just love Goldacre's use of words!? And he goes on,

"We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live," said one email, from a Merck employee. Staff are also alleged to have used other tactics, such as trying to interfere with academic appointments, and dropping hints about how funding to institutions might dry up. Institutions might think about whether they wish to receive money from a company like that in future. Worse still, is the revelation that Merck paid the publisher Elsevier to produce a publication."

Nice folk, eh? And Goldacre thinks such things are fun. If he had been 'discredited' and 'neutralised' in the manner of Andrew Wakefield, I wonder if Dr Ben would think it all so funny.

Knew you were working on something good Martin, well done. Lies and corruption will not be swept under the carpet anymore like the way our children have been. We are light fighting againt the dark and if we keep doing what we are doing we will get justice for our children and future generations.

This is appalling. I don't know whether to scream, cry, or throw up.

"A person believes what her paycheck tells her to believe."

- old wizened saying

It seems the only "litigation" Merck feels is worthy is that which keeps them on the run and hiding in plain sight.

More Americans died by taking a Merck product than died by waging war for their country in Vietnam. According to estimates provided to Congress by non-conflicted FDA personnel some 57,000 Americans lost their lives to Vioxx. But the media is hooked on Merck benefactor, Paul Offit, M.D.

Back in 2006, 97% of those college kids in Iowa had MMR history. Still, they proved OVERWHELMINGLY that the MMR shot was worthless against mumps.

It takes lots of litigation to prevent the news facts surrounding these "outbreaks" from arriving at America's doorstep each morning.

The CDC anti-litigation bloc of Autism research, including Autism Speaks, is no more than a corporation litigation racket in desperate need of a solid wallop delivered by Sherman Anti-Trust.

The corporate activists embedded at the toy medical journals acting as vaccine manufacturing drug company parrots shouldn't even raise an eyebrow.

Good digging Martin, but hardly surprising. Merck has a history of doing this sort of thing, they had Elsevier publish a phony medical journal in Australia to push their products. It was exposed during a Vioxx lawsuit.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Drugs/story?id=7577646&page=1

It was an embarrassing incident for Elsevier as it clearly demonstrated who signed their paychecks. Looks like the lesson Merck learned was to directly control their propaganda machine instead of leaving it in the hands of others.

wow. enlightening. thank you Martin.

Martin states:-
'Brian Deer recently wrote his two slanderous articles about Dr Andrew Wakefield in the British Medical Journal'

Martin-There were THREE recent Brian Deer BMJ articles in a series called 'Secrets of the MMR scare' The first one and the supporting editorial caused a furore in the US. There has been a 'deafening silence' about the other two!!

1.'How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed'
http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5347.full

Editorial 'Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent'(Fiona Godlee, Jane Smith, Harvey Marcovitch).
http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full

2. How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money
http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5258.full

3. The Lancet’s two days to bury bad news
http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7001.full

Great article Martin. I found it quite terrifying!!

Excellent article, Martin. Thank you.

'A unique collaboration in medical education'

http://www.univadis.co.uk/medical_and_more/UK_Login_education

"It was still a matter of controversy only a few years ago when medical journals or their staff were found to be supported, linked or conjoined with pharmaceutical companies, today the battles are over, and the dead truth lies scattered on various battlefields, the bodies looted of their ethics"

Famed economist Adam Smith coined the term "invisible hand" to describe how the economic weath of nations is created.

Martin J Walker .. in this article .. paints an eerily similar portrait of the "invisible hand" .. that presently exists between medical journals and their staff .. who are linked or cojoined with pharmaceutical companies .. for the sole purpose of maintaining the economic market's confidence in pharmaceutical products .. which provides natural stimulation of the public's eventual consumption of those products.


As someone far wiser than myself has already observed .. the MD on Paul Offit's resume should read "marketing director" .. not .. "medical doctor".

Very interesting. Thanks Martin. John

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