Major Fraud:  Merck Concocted Vioxx Studies

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

The Annals of Internal Medicine1 has followed up on a study published earlier this year in JAMA by the same authors, detailing a specific account of how Merck fraudulently concocted a major Vioxx study as a marketing campaign.  Vioxx left tens of thousands of Americans dead.

The class action lawsuits around Vioxx have centered around financial compensation for individuals and families that can prove Vioxx was the cause of a heart-related problem – which is not that easy to prove even if it is true.  Merck has done everything in its power to limit the extent of the financial damage.  Much of the data in the new study comes from these legal cases, and many questions about Merck remain unanswered.

The researchers concluded the following about a key Vioxx study:  “The trial was designed by Merck’s marketing division to fulfill a marketing objective; Merck’s marketing division handled both the scientific and the marketing data, including collection, analysis, and dissemination; and Merck hid the marketing nature of the trial from participants, physician investigators, and institutional review board members.”

It is likely that this type of con game permeates the pharmaceutical industry and will continue to do so until drug company executives have criminal charges pressed against them by the Justice Department.  Until that time liability-related lawsuits are simply a cost of doing business and are built into the sale price of the drug.  Sending executives to jail for involuntary manslaughter would send a different message to the executive ranks of these drug companies, and safety for patients would improve immediately. 

Don’t expect help from the FDA, who let Vioxx on the market without proper warnings.  The FDA has sided with drug companies and wants to prevent all patient law suits against Big Pharma.  Since the Justice Department, FDA lawyers, and the White House are all on the same page – don’t expect justice any time soon.  Vioxx has been off the market for some time.  Merck is currently in the middle of trying to downplay its multi-billion dollar Vytorin fraud – the cholesterol-lowering drug that lowers numbers on paper and makes health worse.

Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ Vioxx Fraud Detailed in Major Medical Journal  Annals of Internal Medicine  Kevin P. Hill, MD, MHS; Joseph S. Ross, MD, MHS; David S. Egilman, MD, MPH; and Harlan M. Krumholz, MD, SM.

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