Vioxx Update

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
similar flaws?

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.

  • I am a doctor and I believe the vioxx results are indicative of the fact that this is a tough drug to administer. You can see what I mean by the results that have been published at which shows the toxicity of the drug in the first and second links.

  • Ryan Cupples

    There are two classes of non-obviously criminal groups in our society that I would have no trouble personally 'removing'; the lawyers and plaintiffs that have a sense of entitlement when relating to these lawsuits, and the spammer above me. Very few deaths would be too extreme.

    Wasn't Vioxx prescription only? If I drink anti-freeze, can people sue the people who made it on my behalf?

  • Ann Martin

    Mr. Frank:

    As a former Merck attorney, you learned well from Merck's spin!!! I agree that probably 95% of the cases are bogus; however, I also believe that each of us should be able to make educated choices concerning our health. Yes, the drug companies have created many life-saving drugs, but does that excuse them from deliberately concealing (or at least hiding the adverse affects) from the public until they were outed (or at least had made billions from Vioxx sales)??? As a victim of this conspiracy, I would have at least appreciated having a choice of the benefits vs. the known risks. I took vioxx from Dec. 2000 to 9/24/2004 when it was recalled. Please note that my prescriptions were handed to me at the pharmacy in the normal child-proof prescription bottles, with only a blue sales slip containing the cost and the warning that I should take as prescribed and should not skip dosages.

    I was leaving my cardiologists' office about noon on 9/24 when I received a call on my cell phone from my daughter, who is a nurse, telling me not to take another vioxx tablet. I had already taken my dosage that morning prior to my doctor's visit. Other than a brief battle with elevated blood pressure approximately 6 months after beginning my vioxx regimen, there was never a thought in my mind nor anyone else who knew me that I would suffer a heart attack suddenly in 2003 after taking vioxx approximately 3 1/2 years. I was an active wife, mother of 5, grandmother of 6, who could outwork any of my children or grandchildren, and the only medication I took on a regular basis was Prevacid for an acidic stomach. I now have a problem walking across the room without tiring out!

    PLEASE, DON'T SING THE PRAISES OF MERCK - THEY ARE SPENDING BILLIONS ON ADVERTISEMENTS SINGING THEIR OWN PRAISES ABOUT HOW THEY "GIVE AWAY" THEIR MEDICATIONS AND THEIR OWNLY CONCERN IS HOW THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE TO GOOD HEALTH OF ALL PEOPLE! PLEEEEESE!!!!! I am taking approximately 9 medications daily since my heart attack and they haven't contributed one dime toward my medical bills!! There is no price tag that can be placed on good health and no amount of money will ever replace it - but MERCK SHOULD PAY FOR THEIR NEGLIGENCE!!!! Again, I agree that these huge sums are a bit ridiculous and I am wondering who chooses what cases should be heard - so far I have been disappointed in the choices, but who am I to judge another's suffering?