The big drugmaker follows the recent step by Eli Lilly (see here) to add a spot on its website where inquiring minds can find just how much is paid to doctors for speaking engagements.
"Our reputation, and the trust that our customers place in us, depend in large part on how we conduct ourselves as a business," Dick Clark, Merck's ceo, say in this statement. "Increasing the visibility of our activities across all aspects of our business will enhance the public’s trust and increase the level of knowledge and understanding of how Merck helps advance medical and scientific education and health care overall." All totalled, Merck says that 1,078 speakers gave 2,493 talks in the recently ended third quarter and they were paid $1,548, on average. The largest amount to one speaker - $22,693. However, dozens of doctors received more than $10,000 each. Here is the full report. You can read Merck's position on payments to doctors here and the list of topics covered by docs here.
Steven Nissen, who heads cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic and a frequent industry critic, says the disclosures don't go far enough. "They don't pay this kind of money unless they're getting marketing out of it," he tells the Associated Press, adding that paid speakers "become an employee and an agent of the pharmaceutical industry."
But James Kemp, a former president of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, who was Merck's top speaker says: "I'm not a salesman. I feel clean and I feel Merck is clean."
Any move toward greater disclosure is overdue and welcome, but one wonders why Merck would choose to begin only with this year's third quarter. The information for prior quarters - while time consuming to accumulate and distill - is readily available. To complete the record and provide still greater context, it would be helpful if the drugmaker dives further back into its database and publishes that information as well.