Ted Frank has this update on Vioxx litigation, and it couldn't possibly be more depressing:
Take, for example, the last
case Merck lost, that of Leonel Garza in south Texas. Mr. Garza, who
was said by plaintiffs to have taken Vioxx for three weeks, was a
71-year-old overweight smoker, with high cholesterol, decades of heart
disease, and a history of a heart attack and a quadruple bypass, yet a
jury awarded his survivors $7 million in "compensatory" damages, and
punitive damages to boot
He goes on to recount the very reasonable suspicion that Garza may not have even taken Vioxx at all, as he never had a prescription and his doctor has denied that he passed Garza a series of free samples in little brown bottles.
So out of eleven cases that
have gone to trial or almost gone to trial, there is a reasonable
suspicion that plaintiffs faked Vioxx usage in as many as five of them.
How many more of the tens of thousands of pending plaintiffs have
He concludes with this excellent point:
Perhaps appellate courts
will get around to correcting these travesties, but the plaintiffs' bar
is counting on enough bad verdicts to slip through the cracks to make
these cases profitable.
The equation of expected returns is certainly helped by the fact
that no one is even suggesting that presenting this sort of
questionable evidence is unethical, much less illegal. Drug safety is
important, but so are the health costs from vaccines and drugs not
marketed because of liability risks. If the judicial system cannot
police itself adequately, the question then becomes why we want to
entrust national drug safety policy to an elected judge and a handful
of randomly selected jurors in Starr County, Texas?
Props to Merck for fighting each and every case so far and resisting the mass tort pressure to start offering settlements to anyone who asks for one.