Consumer Notes on Vioxx

What every consumer should know about Vioxx

The verdict in the Vioxx case is a clear example of how our civil justice system works to protect our rights, allowing ordinary Americans to hold even the largest and wealthiest corporations accountable when they put their bottom line before the health and safety of the public.

David Graham, a scientist at the Food and Drug Administration, in testimony before the U.S. Congress, said that Vioxx contributed to the death of as many as 55,000 people in United States.

Merck knowingly put a dangerous and deadly drug on the market and should be held accountable.

Internal Merck documents indicated that the company was aware of the problems with Vioxx as early as 1997. In fact, the company’s top scientist stated in March 2000 that a clinical trial of Vioxx confirmed that the drug had heart risks. Despite their knowledge of these problems, Merck aggressively marketed the drug, making billions off of the new blockbuster.

Merck trained drug reps to dodge questions from doctors about the safety of the drug, another example of their negligence and lack of concern for the public’s well-being.

In a misleading 2001 letter to doctors, the company clearly understated the risks of taking Vioxx. Merck even produced a game called “dodgeball” to teach pharmaceutical representatives how to avoid answering tough questions about their new blockbuster drug. And if doctors weren’t deterred by this tactic, internal documents showed that Merck worked to discredit these doctors.

It’s obvious that the CEO of Merck was paying a great deal of attention to promoting the sales of Vioxx because it was critical to their bottom line. The jury in the trial sent back a clear message to Merck that they should have been paying equal or more attention to ensuring that Vioxx was safe for patients.

As the jurors themselves have noted, the $229 million in punitive damages that they awarded was not a random figure pulled out of thin air. It was the amount that Merck officials estimated the company would save by delaying changes to the drug’s warning label.

There is a reason that Merck has spent millions of dollars to lobby Congress for passage of medical malpractice legislation that would protect pharmaceutical companies – if the bill was law today, they would virtually be off the hook.

In the last five years, Merck has spent $30,390,294 to lobby the U.S. Congress.

The pharmaceutical companies are not policing themselves, Washington is not holding them accountable – the last resort for victims or the family members of those who have died or are injured is in our courts.