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Vioxx Problems Hidden by Merck

After all the smoke cleared and Vioxx was off the market, the inevitable lawsuits were filed against its corporate parent, Merck and Co. According to reports in today's Wall Street Journal, the concerns many people had about Vioxx were more than justified. Internal e-mails and related documents have surfaced, proving Merck worked diligently to prevent safety concerns from derailing Vioxx's product value.

Merck pulled Vioxx off the market in late September due to a study that showed patients taking the drug face twice the risk of heart attack compared to those taking a placebo, especially those who had been taking the drug longer than 18 months. According to the Wall Street Journal, Merck knew about these concerns in a March 9, 2000 e-mail citing the results of the Vioxx Gastrointestinal Outcomes Research (VIGOR) study the company launched the previous year.

In a comparison between Vioxx and Naproxen, the VIGOR study found the rate of heart attacks among Vioxx patients was FIVE TIMES HIGHER than those who used Naproxen. In fact, Edward Scolnick, the now-retired Merck research chief, acknowledged the results and called them a "shame."

Nevertheless, Merck knew what they were getting into. One internal memo leaked to the Wall Street Journal cited the company's concerns over the potential of Vioxx to induce a heart attack and a second warned of blood clots if patients didn't take aspirin too.

Yahoo News November 1, 2004

USA Today November 2, 2004

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