Merck Januvia survey sparks ethics debate

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Merck's attempt to show doctors in British Columbia are opposed to the government's 2014 decision to pull diabetes medication Januvia off the national health formulary has kicked off a debate about the veracity of surveys sponsored by drug makers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the uproar is over a survey Merck conducted among 4,500 physicians who indicated that 25% to 30% of patients were uneasy about the medication change and that about 69% of doctors whose patients did well on Januvia felt they should not be forced to change their medication.

The Journal notes that Health Minister Tony Lake told a local publication that there is concern that “the survey is really a lobbying effort on the part of a large pharmaceutical company.” Critics also note that although a nonprofit conducted the survey, the researchers had had previous ties to Merck.

The researchers told the local Vancouver Sun that their previous relationship did not have an impact on survey results. One said he felt able to approach the work in an unbiased manner, and another told the Journal that the data was “derived from the free and unguided opinion” of doctors.

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