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According to an email passed back and forth between the staff of drug giant Merck, the company created a hit list of doctors who needed to be “neutralized” and “discredited” for having criticized the safety of Vioxx, the blockbuster pain medication which emerged in 1999, caused thousands of heart attacks and strokes, and was withdrawn from the market in 2004.

“We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live,” a Merck employee wrote, according to an email excerpt read to the court by Julian Burnside QC, acting for the plaintiff. –Milanda Rout, The Australian

The email emerged in Melbourne’s Federal Court as part of a class action against Merck, which is also claiming that Merck intimidated drug researchers by threatening to cut institutional funding and block academic appointments when it was met with opposition. More than 1000 Australians are suing the company for having suffered heart attacks and strokes as a result of Vioxx use.

In the US, Merck has also been accused of hiding negative results of clinical Vioxx trials from the FDA, and of paying reputable doctors to put their names on research they did not actually conduct or write up. Its class action settlement last year for stroke and heart attack victims totaled $4.85billion.

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