This has all been revealed now, thanks to the publication of Merck's own insider emails. One email, authored by Edward Scolnick, chief of research for Merck, says that cardiovascular risks, "...are clearly there." Additional emails contribute to the evidence that points to a fairly straightforward case of consumer deception.
Statements from several of these emails were recently published in a scathing article at the Wall Street Journal, which wrote, "Merck's first worry, in the mid-to-late 1990s, was that its drug would show greater heart risk than cheaper painkillers that were harsh on the stomach but were believed to reduce the risk of heart attacks. Several company officials discussed in e-mails how to design a study that would minimize the unflattering comparison, even while admitting to themselves that it would be difficult to conceal."
Even the medical journals are astonished at Merck's behavior. Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet (one of the most respected journals in the world), says, "the licensing of Vioxx and its continued use in the face of unambiguous evidence of harm have been public health catastrophes. This controversy will not end with the drug's withdrawal. Merck's likely litigation bill is put at between $10bn and $15bn. The company has seen its revenues and its capitalization slashed. It has been financially disabled and its reputation lies in ruins. It is not at all clear that Merck will survive this growing scandal."
And it wasn't just Stanford University, either: chief researchers at several top medical schools were being threatened by Merck. Dr. James Fries called it, "a consistent pattern of intimidation of investigators by Merck."
Merck's Chief Executive Raymond Gilmartin, in response, says it the firm has "a deep and abiding commitment to the highest ethical standards in all our dealings with physicians and other healthcare providers." Sure it does. And Vioxx is good for you, too.
As if all this wasn't enough, a Merck training manual was developed and distributed to help company officials fend off criticisms about Vioxx and instill pro-Vioxx propaganda in the minds of doctors. The document listed questions about the safety of Vioxx and said in capital letters, "DODGE!" Internally, it was even called the "Dodge Ball Vioxx" document. The primary purpose of the document was to convince doctors to keep prescribing Vioxx, even while evidence of the drug's dangers mounted.
Given all the damning evidence about Vioxx and its handling by Merck, does the company apologize and try to make amends? Of course not. Merck said in a recent news release that it "acted responsibly and appropriately as it developed and marketed Vioxx."
See, it's not just that these pharmaceutical companies act with reckless endangerment to the public, it's also the stunning fact that they don't see anything wrong with it. They will develop a dangerous drug, distort the clinical trials, lean on the FDA for approval, threaten scientists who speak out against the drug, and finally when the body bags start mounting, they'll claim they are innocent and have been acting ethically and honestly all along.
By saying, "The class will do well and so will we," he clearly means that despite the health hazards of the drugs, they're going to sell well anyway, and everyone who owns stock at Merck (or who works at Merck) is going to financial benefit from that.
Even prestigious medical journals (which are funded primarily by drug advertising money, by the way), joined in pumping up the credibility of Vioxx. In November, 2000, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article written by academics who were literally paid by Merck. This article heralded the "benefits" of Vioxx in reducing stomach problems and -- get this -- reducing heart attack rates. The article, of course, left out all the negative information about Vioxx, including what was obvious even in 2000: that Vioxx increased the risk of heart attacks, strokes and blood clots, even in healthy people.
In effect, the FDA acted as a Big Pharma propaganda machine, catering to the interests of drug companies at every turn. In 2001, when the FDA became increasingly aware of the dangers of the drug, it went to Merck and asked the company to include prominent new warnings on the drug label. Merck balked and complained that the FDA should, instead, highlight the drug's positive gastrointestinal features. Instead of demanding the inclusion of the warning label (like a fully empowered regulatory body might do), the FDA caved in and actually reached a compromise with Merck that resulted in a new label promoting the claim that Vioxx would caused fewer stomach upsets! Below that claim, in small print, it mentioned that the drug would also cause more heart attacks and strokes.
Meanwhile, people were dying. How many people were harmed or killed in those four years during which Merck and the FDA hid the truth about Vioxx? And how many other drugs are just as dangerous and yet heavily promoted? According to the American Medical Association, prescription drugs kill -- yes, kill -- 100,000 Americans each year. Another document, Death by Medicine authored in part by Dr. Gary Null, shows as many as 750,000 people being killed each year by medications and surgical procedures combined. Clearly, these deaths dwarf the fatalities caused by terrorists, wars, and all national crime statistics combined.
"the FDA continues to see the pharmaceutical industry as its customer -- a vital source of funding for its activities -- and not as a sector of society in need of strong regulation." - Dr. Richard Horton, editor, The Lancet
It's time for serious action. It's time to go after these criminal pharmaceutical executives and charge them with the crimes they have committed against humanity. It's time to hit these companies where it hurts: right in the pocketbook. It's time to put Merck and its competition out of business for good... and thereby save the lives of untold Americans who can be spared the harm caused by prescription drugs.
And here's how I'm going to help make that happen:
For the first time ever, I am publicly supporting legal action against a pharmaceutical company. Today, I am announcing that I will assist individuals who were harmed by Vioxx in filing lawsuits against Merck for the damage caused by their products. I'll do this by getting you in touch with capable legal teams who are involved in ongoing legal action against the pharmaceutical giant. So if you've taken Vioxx and want to join what could become a multi-billion-dollar settlement against Merck, contact us at [email protected] and include your name and address. We'll forward your information to a legal team who will take it from there. (We're doing this at no charge, and without any financial compensation of any kind.)
Or, you can search on Google or some other search engine and find a legal team yourself. Whatever you do, don't sit back. This is not just about getting a financial reward for yourself, this is about bankrupting an evil empire that is knowingly damaging the health of millions of people in order to make a buck. And these "smoking gun" emails are probably just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how many more evils are taking place behind closed doors at Merck and other companies, where the business philosophy seems to be, "profits at all costs!" Ethics be damned. These companies are going to sell you drugs that may, indeed, kill you. And they're going to keep raising the prices each year, too, so you have to pay more even while you continue to be harmed. It is unethical, unjust, and unacceptable.
It's time to stand up and take action. If you've been harmed by Vioxx, I urge you to demand justice and join the legal action against Merck. Let's put this company out of business for good and send a message to Big Pharma that they can no longer exploit Americans' health for their own corporate greed.
Let's make this the mostly costly lawsuit in the history of medicine. Let's bankrupt Merck and thereby protect Americans from the company's future drugs, which will no doubt have even more dangerous side effects. It's time to put this evil empire out of business for the good of all mankind.
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