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Vioxx: This Pharmaceutical Drug Killed Over 60,000 People

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page, Health page, and our Appetite For a Change page.

    What would you say if you knew someone had killed 60,000 people? Would you call it a felony of the worst kind, times 60,000? If you totaled up the value of all those lives in criminal court, what would you say they're worth?

 Billions? Trillions?

 Or-how about a measly $321 million in exchange for a guilty plea to a misdemeanor? When you consider that this involves the second-largest drug maker in the U.S.-Merck-and its deadly drug Vioxx, then you'll probably agree that a misdemeanor and a $321 million fine amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

 Business analysts were estimating a $25 billion judgment when the drug was taken off the market, but even when combined with the $4.85 billion in payouts to patients who suffered heart attacks and strokesi, the final bill is nowhere close to original estimates of the damage.

 Yet that's the plea agreement Merck recently made with a federal court in Boston on April 19ii, after being charged with illegal promotion of Vioxx for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, before it was approved for that use.

 The sad tale brings up memories of what I tried to warn readers about in 1999, when I showed that people taking this drug were at a massively increased risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. It's tragic that Vioxx was removed only AFTER 60,000 people died.

 It's even more tragic that a court would consider Merck's illegal promotion of the drug a misdemeanor rather than a felony, since this tactic clearly exposed far more people to the dangerous drug than it would have otherwise. And, adding insult to injury, instead of the billions that Merck anticipated paying out, it got away with such a paltry sum.

Hired Writers Responsible for Some of Merck's Vioxx Studies?

 Particularly galling is the fact that these deaths could have been so easily avoided, were it not for the deceptive maneuvering of parties who stood to profit handsomely from the success of the drug.

 Ghostwriting has become an increasingly troublesome problem in the medical science community, and the Vioxx debacle is a perfect example of why ghostwriting medical research is a devious practice that needs to be rooted out.

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