(NaturalNews) The city and state of New York have filed a joint lawsuit against Merck & Company for deliberately concealing the dangers of its painkiller Vioxx, thereby defrauding public health programs out of millions of dollars in prescription costs.
"Merck's irresponsible and duplicitous conduct endangered the health of New Yorkers and wasted our tax dollars," said New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. "Even as evidence was piling up showing just how dangerous this drug was, Merck put profits above all else."
The New York Supreme Court will decide whether Merck defrauded New York's Medicaid and Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance programs. The plaintiffs say that if doctors had known the risks posed by Vioxx, they never would have prescribed the drug, and state agencies would never have paid out $100 million to Merck for the product. They are asking the court to force Merck to pay back all of that money.
New York is the seventh state to file such a lawsuit against the company, following Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Utah and Texas. More than 25,000 lawsuits have been brought against the company to date for its alleged malfeasance in covering up the dangers of Vioxx.
From 1999 to 2004, Vioxx was widely prescribed as a painkiller for arthritis and migraines. When it was revealed that the drug significantly increased patients' risks of heart attacks and strokes, however, Vioxx was pulled from the market.
Lawyers for the company promised that they were "vigorously defending" the case, and denied any wrongdoing on the part of their clients. "We are confident that our behavior has been responsible," said Kent Jarrell, a spokesperson for Merck's lawyers.
The city of New York also has a lawsuit pending in federal court against 44 pharmaceutical companies including Merck
. In that lawsuit, the city has alleged that the companies artificially inflated the prices of their products, thereby defrauding the city's Medicaid program.
"The pharmaceutical industry routinely engages in fraudulent business practices," said consumer health advocate Mike Adams. "With Big Pharma, fraud is not the exception; it's the way business is routinely conducted. And yet, despite the outrageously illegal and unethical business practices pursued by these companies, it is worth noting that they manage to pay their way out of any criminal judgments and thereby maintain a clean legal record that allows them to continue doing business with state and federal governments," Adams said.