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Merck pleads guilty to misbranding Vioxx

This week Merck & Co. pleaded guilty to mis-branding Vioxx in order to settle criminal charges that it sold Vioxx for unapproved uses and made false statements about its cardiovascular safety.  Merck had previously paid $4.85 billion dollars to some 50,000 patients who suffered strokes or heart attacks and blamed them on Vioxx.  Merck will also pay more than 300 million dollars in criminal fines.

Unfortunately, none of these reparations will benefit Michigan residents:  As part of "tort reform," Republican legislators adopted the nation's only statute granting complete immunity to any product that had been approved for sale by the FDA.  Even where, as here, the FDA approval is procured by fraud or the manufacturer evades the limitations on sale of the product, the immunity stands.  Recently the Republican majority of Michigan's Supreme Court upheld this immunity even with regard to expenses wrongfully incurred by the State as a result of a drugmaker's misdeeds.

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