Merck Vioxx Case

Topics: Letter from Birmingham Jail, Food and Drug Administration, Open letter Pages: 3 (893 words) Published: September 16, 2011
As a result of worldwide withdrawal of Vioxx, Merck faced a serious public relations crisis in the fall of 2004. Pharmaceutical giant’s officials were forced to defend company’s actions, its motivation for those actions, and its reputation after several articles, negatively reflecting on Merck’s behavior handling the Vioxx case, had been published. As an initial response to Vioxx crisis, the company released “An Open Letter from Merck” and “For 100 years, patients first” in attempt at a positive rebuttal. These open letters try to counter the negative press by using the following three strategies: utilization of Aristotelian view of rhetoric as a persuasion technique by building ethos with the readers; precise wording choices that emphasize Merck’s good moral character and proactive response in its handling of Vioxx; and direct appeal to the audience and emphasis in sentences and paragraphs to restore goodwill with its customers. Merck’s open letters employ Aristotle’s idea of rhetoric by building appeal with the reader based on three foundations of ethos: wisdom, virtue and goodwill. This strategy is used in attempt to establish credibility and refute The Lancet claim that pharmaceutical giant “acted out of ruthless, shortsighted, and irresponsible self-interest” in Vioxx case. At first, the both documents try to establish Merck’s good judgment and knowledge by insisting the company conforms to ”scientific discipline and transparency”, performs ”rigorous scientific investigation” and brings “new medicines to patients who need them”. In addition, the “Open Letter” argues that as soon as data confirming the increased risks of Vioxx became available, the pharmaceutical giant “acted promptly and made the decision to voluntary withdraw” the drug. The letters further develop ethos with the audience by demonstrating Merck’s history of doing the right thing: “For more than 100 years,” the company “has produced life-saving benefits for countless patients in numerous...
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