Merck Takes Action After Removing VIOXX

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

In the wake of Merck & Co Inc'svoluntary decision to pull its arthritisand acute pain medication VIOXX(rofecoxib) off the market, the companyhas taken swift action to communicatewith patients, pharmacists, andpharmacy operators. Merck has postedinformation on www.merck.com andwww.vioxx.com, established a VIOXXhot line (888-368-4699), and initiateda major advertising campaign includingfull-page advertisements in nationalnewspapers, according to Merckspokeswoman Anita Larsen.

"The VIOXX Web site is constantlybeing updated, and the VIOXX hotline has operators ready to answerhealth care professionals' and patients'questions. Feedback is very importantto us," Larsen said.

The National Association of ChainDrug Stores (NACDS) commendedMerck for its quick voluntary action."Merck did a good job of avoiding theconfusion that sometimes happenswith a major withdrawal," said EdwardJ. Staffa, RPh, NACDS vice president ofpharmacy practice & communications.

"They [Merck] made it as practicalas possible for pharmacy and pharmacyoperators to react to the withdrawal,"he added. Furthermore, Staffa saidthat the company's clear informationon how patients could receive a refunddirectly from Merck was very useful.

As for NACDS members and pharmacyoperators, Staffa said, "I havespoken to some of them, and theywere satisfied with Merck's response."

Following Merck's announcement,"Walgreens immediately pulled andquarantined VIOXX. It's our standardprocedure when a drug is recalled. Wereferred patients to Merck regardingtheir questions and advised patients tospeak with their physicians to see whatalternative medications they couldtake," said Carol Hively, corporatespokeswoman for Walgreens.

The Pennington Apothecary, basedin Pennington, NJ, has fielded manycalls. "Many patients have called, especiallypatients who just started takingVIOXX, about what to do with theirsupply. We advised them to go to theMerck Web site," said owner Chris M.Castagna, RPh.

If patients could not reach theirphysician immediately regarding alternativemedications, "we have recommendedOTC products such as ibuprofen,as long as they don't havegastrointestinal problems," Castagnaadded. As of press time, the pharmacywas waiting for instructions from itssupplier, McKesson Corp, about thereturn policy.

Merck's decision to withdrawVIOXX is based on new, 3-year clinicaldata from a prospective, randomized,placebo-controlled clinical trial, theAPPROVe (Adenomatous Polyp Preventionon VIOXX) trial.