Merck Toots Its Own Horn

Merck's PR campaign around the Vioxx recall includes "three full-page ads in seven prominent newspapers," "several television appearances," and "testimony before Congress by the company's chief executive." But the president of a New York crisis-management firm says, "They really need some third-party endorsements." In addition, "Merck's strategy of asserting it withdrew Vioxx immediately upon learning there was a risk" could leave the company open to further legal challenges if the opposite is proven in court. Leaked emails suggest "the company knew about the side effects long before the drug was withdrawn," but Merck's media relations director says, "The mantra has been openness, integrity and transparency."