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This weekly column offers opinions on the latest pharmaceutical industry news.

The next time you take a Merck medicine and it doesn’t work, don’t expect a refund. The drug maker doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee.

But there are times, a high-ranking Merck official believes, when the company deserves to get its own money back. That’s when it licenses potential treatments from universities based on promising results from early clinical trials, and then can’t reproduce those results in subsequent experiments.


Collaborations between industry and academia fail to replicate initial data way too often. This undermines public confidence in science and wastes money and time as companies pursue dead ends based on flawed research.  As Merck’s chief medical officer sees it, a full or even partial money-back guarantee from universities could fix this.

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  • As usual crocodile tears keeps pouring down, as the cost of replicating a research, is nothing more than a fraction of bonuses that executives and CEOs cash every years for unaccountable performances.
    Indeed, the main problem lies in the plethora of not so qualified consultants, and executives, who do not know anything abount biology and medicine (and probably even how to make money). All people, handsomely paid to evaluate a priori whether a technology/discovery is actually worth pursuing. And why not, many “qualified” scientists with “solid industry experience” that might be just unable to replicate the results.

  • Better yet, why not offer money-back guarantees for when Big Pharma products turn out to be dangerous killers? Merck put so many people at risk – a risk they knew all about beforehand, from Ed Scolnick and Alise Reicin up to the CEO – with that Vioxx junk medicine. People who got injured had a chance at compensation, but regular purchasers got nothing for taking a huge risk.

  • merck fought vioxx rebates and continues to do so.

    of course vioxx just caused heart attacks and alzheimers and strokes and killed people.

    oh ya it was based on science so bad even the right wing nejm issued an official reprimand.

  • Dr Rosenblatt was referring to pre-clinical experiments, not clinical trials, in his essay (ie, basic and translational science). Historically, academia and industry has counted on the peer review process to validate published results. Further, young investigators used to routinely publish confirmatory, or rebuttal works. However the complexity of today’s biology, and perhaps greater focus on novelty, has resulted in many works being unchallenged. An alternative plan could be to ask the publishing journals to require confirmation in the hands of a second lab prior to publication.

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