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When Drug Sales and Science Collide



Co Authors:

Elizabeth R. McCain
Biology Department
Muhlenberg College
mccain@muhlenberg.edu

Cindy Trussell
Natural Sciences
Kodiak College / University of Alaska Anchorage
ctrussell@kodiak.alaska.edu

Abstract:

When "Jeff," a fictionalized drug representative, is placed on the Vioxx® account in 2001, he finds himself pulled between sales and science as he struggles to reconcile three original documents: a Merck marketing pamphlet, a graph from a scientific journal, and a confidential internal bulletin. As students work through the case, they must interpret scientific data, consider ethical issues related to the pharmaceutical industry, and learn why Vioxx, a wonder drug, was taken off the market. This interrupted case is appropriate for advanced high school students and first-year college science majors and non-majors.

Objectives:
  • Evaluate data provided by a pharmaceutical company for distribution by its sales representatives to doctors.
  • Interpret data in a graph taken from the primary scientific literature.
  • Identify and discuss the importance of a sample size in medical research.
  • Discuss some of the ethical issues related to the drug industry and their impact on society.
  • Evaluate why Vioxx was considered a wonder drug and why it was pulled off the market.
Keywords: Vioxx; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; pharmaceuticals; experimental design; sample size; data interpretation; clinical trial; FDA; Merck
Topical Area: Ethics, Scientific method, Regulatory issues, Social issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Medicine (General)   Pharmacy / Pharmacology   Nursing   Science (General)  
Date Posted: 12/02/07
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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