intro to business analytics 5


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GO TO OCE login UML Introduction to Business Analytics – Sec 032 FA19 NPercival>

linked item Discussion 4: Removing Vioxx

For years, the drug Vioxx, developed and marketed by Merck, was one of the blockbuster drugs on the market. One of a number of so-called Cox-2 anti-inflammatory drugs, Vioxx was considered by many people a miracle drug for alleviating the pain from arthritis and other painful afflictions. Vioxx was marketed heavily on television, prescribed by most physicians, and used by an estimated two million Americans.

All of that changed in October 2004, when the results of a large study were released. The study, which followed approximately 2600 subjects over a period of about 18 months, concluded that Vioxx use over a long period of time caused a significant increase in the risk of developing serious heart problems. Merck almost immediately pulled Vioxx from the American market and doctors stopped prescribing it. On the basis of the study, Merck faced not only public embarrassment but the prospect of huge financial losses.

More specifically, the study had 1287 patients use Vioxx for an 18-month period, and it had another 1299 patients use a placebo over the same period. After 18 months, 45 of the Vioxx patients had developed serious heart problems, whereas only about 25 patients on the placebo developed such problems.

Given these results, would you agree with the conclusion that Vioxx caused a significant increase in the risk of developing serious heart problems? In class, we’ll analyze this type of question statistically. Consider the questions below given the information that you now have.

Source: Albright, S.C., Winston, W.L., and Zappe, C.J. Data Analysis and Decision Making, South-Western/Cengage, 4th ed., 2011.


  1. If you were a Vioxx user, would the results of the study cause you significant worry? After all, some of the subjects who took placebos also developed heart conditions. Is 45 really that different from 25?
  2. Consider Merck’s point of view. Are the results practically significant to the company? What does it stand to lose?
  3. Develop an estimate of the financial losses that Merck might incur from this situation. Would they try to settle lawsuits preemptively? Or would they take their chances in court?
  4. Thinking statistically, how would you test if 45 is significantly larger than 25? How would you frame your hypothesis?

Rather than provide brief answers to all of the above questions, try picking one or two and digging deeper. Come back later and respond to what others have written. To receive full credit, make at least two (2) substantive posts, preferably one in response to what someone else has written. Refer to the syllabus for more details.

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