Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court against pharma giant Merck for violating Kentucky’s Consumer Protection Act in connection with Vioxx, the blockbuster painkiller that caused strokes and heart attacks, and was withdrawn from the market in September 2004.
The lawsuit against Merck alleges that beginning May 1999, the company launched an aggressive, deceptive Vioxx marketing campaign targeting health care professionals as well as consumers. The campaign, which touted Vioxx’s effectiveness in treating osteoarthritis, menstrual pain, and other forms of acute pain, didn’t include an increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes in its list of common side effects, even though Merck knew full well about this risk.
The suit also accuses Merck of commissioning ghostwriters to write and researchers to forge their names on purportedly “scholarly” articles (published in reputable journals including The Journal of the American Medical Association) whose true purpose was to further develop Vioxx’s name recognition and credibility.
Merck was aware of the potential for dangerous cardiovascular side effects, including heart attack and stroke, associated with Vioxx through internal studies, including Study 090, which was conducted in 1998. The results of Study 090 were not disclosed to the FDA or the public at the time Vioxx was introduced to the public.
"Consumers have a right to know all of the risks associated with the prescription drugs they take," said General Conway. "Merck relied on an aggressive marketing campaign to lure consumers into taking Vioxx and then concealed the increased health risks associated with the drug. This kind of deception puts consumers at risk and will not be tolerated in Kentucky." –Office of Attorney General
Merck carried out their incredibly successful Vioxx campaign in Kentucky for more than five years, all the while representing this dangerous drug as a “safer” and more effective alternative to more commonly prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Just a few years ago, Vioxx was all the rage with doctors, hospitals, and patients all over the country. Now, it’s off the market and Merck is paying out nearly $5 billion in lawsuits for the strokes and heart attacks it negligently, greedily caused. The way Merck is now aggressively marketing its HPV vaccine Gardasil to America’s young people (before adequate testing has been performed) feels frighteningly similar to the way it handled Vioxx. Please read more about Gardasil’s adverse effects (and Merck’s blockbuster ad campaigns) if you are considering getting vaccinated or vaccinating your child.