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Monday, March 5, 2007

27,000 lawsuits - Ambushed by Merck: An adverse drug reaction

Frederick (“Mike”) Humeston is a tough guy, an ex-Marine who won two Purple Heart medals in Vietnam. By 2001, at age 61, he had gained some weight, and had high blood pressure. He testified that he was a healthy outdoorsman before the heart attack. But since then, he no longer can hike and lead canoe trips as a wilderness guide. He took Vioxx to dull the pain in his left knee, which was damaged by shrapnel in Vietnam. He took 54 Vioxx pills in the two months before his heart attack and two pills within hours of the incident.

He lost his first lawsuit. Then he was granted a second trial because of new evidence that even short-term Vioxx use could increase cardiac risks. Merck had repeatedly insisted that Vioxx didn't increase cardiac risks until after 18 months of use. On Friday, a jury unanimously ruled that Merck had committed consumer fraud by misleading doctors and patients and by intentionally suppressing, concealing or omitting information about the risks of Vioxx, which was withdrawn from the market in September 2004.

Advice to victims: Sometimes you need to get a good lawyer. And take the least medicine you need.

Advice for the NY Times headlines writer: “Mixed Verdicts for Merck [one win, one loss]” is like saying, “Half of the Bridal Couple Shows Up for Wedding.” The newsworthy event is the guilty verdict, especially when 27,000 lawsuits have been filed against Merck over Vioxx. We expect big pharma companies will be found innocent of fraud. Or do we?

Read another lawsuit story. Or read the sources: Andrew Pollack’s NY Times story,or Linda Johnson's account, or Marc Kaufman’s Washington Post article in Nov. 2005.

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