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New evidence emerging from the Merck lawsuits over the painkiller Vioxx shows that the company repeatedly lied to both the FDA and respected medical journals about who was conducting and writing up the results of purportedly “scientific” studies of the drug. While Merck named respected, impartial doctors and researchers as the authors of Vioxx studies, these studies were actually done by Merck company employees, and written up by ghostwriters working for professional writing firms.

Many of the researchers have admitted to being offered money from Merck and other drug companies for allowing their names to be pasted on the bogus research.

Catherine DeAngelis, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), reported that drug companies frequently request that her name be cited as the author of studies she has not been involved in at all. High blood pressure expert Jean Sealey said that a consulting firm once asked her say she had authored a study to be presented at a conference that was only a week away. She had never even heard of the drug being tested.

Patients and attorneys alike need to take this as the dire warning against federal preemption that it really is. Under preemption, once the FDA approves a drug, lawsuits against the companies who produce it will become illegal and consumers will have no recourse when deceptions and cover-ups like these—which result in billions of dollars in profit for the drug companies—result in injury or even death for unsuspecting patients. We cannot allow the government to implement a system that relies on the judgment of an appallingly understaffed and underfunded organization like the FDA to be the ultimate decider. With the threat of multi-billion dollar lawsuits looming over their heads, drug companies like Merck still lie to the FDA, and still lie to the medical journals, knowing that they’ll ultimately turn a profit even in the worst of cases. I shudder to imagine how much more drug companies would lie if our right to bring a lawsuit were removed, and they had nothing whatsoever to lose.

If you care about this issue, and want to preserve your rights, please write your Congressperson and raise your voice against federal preemption.

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