A major new study in the July 26, 2007 New England Journal of Medicine titled “Toxicity of Refecoxib [Vioxx] in Colorectal Cancer” reveals that Vioxx therapy was associated with an increased frequency of adverse cardiovascular events among patients with a median study treatment of 7.4 months’ duration. The importance of this study is that untiil now Merck has taken the position that there is no increased frequency of heart attacks unless patients were on Vioxx for 18 months. This study appears to contradict Merck’s assertions in this regard. Merck (NYSE:MRK) faces 16,000 lawsuits in New Jersey and thousands more nationwide as a result of heart attacks and strokes caused by the now withdrawn drug. Merck’s General Counsel, Ken Frazier, has repeatedly promised that Merck intends to try every lawsuit one at a time. Of the 15 trials to date, both sides differ on what is considered a win, but there have been findings adverse to Merck in the majority of the cases. Some juries have found Merck guilty of consumer fraud, by making intentional misrepresentations about the safety of Vioxx to doctors, the FDA, and the public. The amount of the verdicts in the cases Merck lost total hundreds of millions of dollars. Merck also has paid over a billion dollars to date to their lawyers to defend these cases.
For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Drugs, Medical Devices, and Implants.