Trial demonstrates Merck's Vioxx liability
An Australian class-action lawsuit against Merck over its painkiller Vioxx should be causing the large pharmaceutical company embarrassment. Evidence has shown that the company circulated its own marketing publication touting the drug, which it passed off to doctors as an independent medical journal. It created an "independent" board of doctors, whom it groomed to market the drug, without informing them of the safety risk, and it prepared sales staff with a "training manual" of talking points to address safety concerns as early as 2001.
The drug was removed from the market in 2004 and last year Merck settled U.S. claims with nearly 50,000 claimants, for $4.85 billion dollars, essentially conceding that it had mis-led consumers into unreasonable risk of cardiovascular injury. Clinical trials showed that the drug posed a significant risk of stroke and heart attack, but Merck had been successful in many individual cases by persuading jurors that victims could not isolate Vioxx as "the cause" of their injuries.