The Merck Salesman: A Modern Day MLK

At the House Government Reform Committee’s hearing on Merck’s attempt to bury relevant safety data about its signature painkiller, Vioxx, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) read from a Merck training manual that directed instructors to play a recording of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech and then say to the sales force: “King was someone with goal-focus — he kept getting shut down but kept going. . . Just as with a physician, you must keep repeating the compelling message and at some point, the physician will be ‘free at last’ when he or she prescribes the Merck drug, if that is most appropriate for the patient.”

Indeed, the remarkable correspondence between spearheading the Civil Rights movement in America and selling dangerous drugs to unusupecting arthritic consumers needs little elaboration. But it gets better. Also included in the documents made public Thursday was an excerpt from Merck’s 2002 booklet, “Champion Selling: Milestone Leader’s Guide,” which deals with the problem that some doctors might not have time to talk about a Merck product (for instance, maybe they’re attending to patients). The guide cautions that field staff need to understand, “it’s those defining moments that distinguish all champions.” For instance:

Helen Keller could have felt sorry for herself when she went blind and deaf. — Martin Luther King could have laid low when his home was firebombed. — Tiger Woods could have avoided the pressure by not turning pro as young as he did. — George Washington could have finished his years with a comfortable life without the challenges of taking on the presidency.

Wow…almost makes you want to go out and sell overpriced drugs that give people heart attacks to as many doctors as possible!