(NaturalNews) New research shows that information on potentially lethal side effects of the blockbuster painkiller Vioxx was "neglected, restricted, distorted and silenced" by pharmaceutical giant Merck, writes London-based physician and author John Briffa in The Epoch Times.
Vioxx was first approved for sale in 1999 and quickly became a top seller. Yet according to an analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, clear evidence existed by 2001 that the drug increased the risk of cardiovascular thrombotic events, including heart attack, stroke and death. This evidence was contained in studies conducted by and for Merck.
"Most of the information we are using in this study was never published, or if it was published, they never included the key safety data," co-author Harlan Krumholz said.
It has been proven Merck promoted Vioxx through the popular industry practice of ghostwriting articles and scientific studies for publication in respected medical journals. In addition, a recent article in the British Medical Journal shows that the company employed tactics designed to "neutralize" and "discredit" doctors who tried to raise concerns about Vioxx.
Yet Merck still insists that it did not know about the heart risks of Vioxx until 2004, when it voluntarily withdrew the drug from the market.
Practices like those Merck used to promote Vioxx are widespread in the drug industry, as revealed by numerous recent lawsuits against companies for concealing drug side effects, illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses, and using questionable marketing techniques.
Briffa notes that Merck may now be engaged in an attempt to save the image of the cholesterol-reducing drug ezetimibe (also marketed as Vytorin), which does not appear to reduce the risk of heart attacks but may actually increase the risk of cancer death.
"Never mind, though, because it appears Merck has managed to find some scientists who claim that this association is likely to be due to chance, even though the stats show it's very unlikely to be due to chance," Briffa writes. "Let's hope history isn't repeating itself."