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When Drug Sales and Science Collide


Author(s)

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 Areas

Ethics, Scientific method, Regulatory issues, Social issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Interrupted

Language

English

Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Medicine (General)  |   Pharmacy / Pharmacology  |   Nursing  |   Science (General)  |  


Date Posted

12/02/07

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