Merck and the Vioxx Scandal
The truth has finally come out about the Vioxx scandal: insider emails published by the Wall Street Journal reveal that Merck, the maker of Vioxx, was fully aware of the health risks of its COX-2 inhibitor anti-inflammatory drug as early as March, 2000.
As is apparent from the published emails, there was a concerted effort to bury the negative evidence and even distort the drug trials by excluding heart patients from the Vioxx studies so that, "...the rate of cardiovascular problems for Vioxx patients would not be evident."
This has all been revealed now, thanks to the publication of Merck's own insider emails. One email, authored by Edward Scolnick, chief of research for Merck, says that cardiovascular risks, "...are clearly there." Additional emails contribute to the evidence that points to a fairly straightforward case of consumer deception.
Statements from several of these emails were recently published in a scathing article at the Wall Street Journal, which wrote, "Merck's first worry, in the mid-to-late 1990s, was that its drug would show greater heart risk than cheaper painkillers that were harsh on the stomach but were believed to reduce the risk of heart attacks.
Several company officials discussed in e-mails how to design a study that would minimize the unflattering comparison, even while admitting to themselves that it would be difficult to conceal."
Even the medical journals are astonished at Merck's behavior. Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet (one of the most respected journals in the world), says, "the licensing of Vioxx and its continued use in the face of unambiguous evidence of harm have been public health catastrophes. This controversy will not end with the drug's withdrawal. Merck's likely litigation bill is put at between $10bn and $15bn. The company has seen its revenues and its capitalization slashed. It has been financially disabled and its reputation lies in ruins. It is not at all clear that Merck will survive this Vioxx scandal."
Merck and the Vioxx Scandal Continued...
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