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Originally published November 25 2009

Merck's Vioxx scandal widens: Drug maker knew Vioxx was deadly for years before risk was made public (opinion)

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) The Vioxx scandal widened this week as new research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that Vioxx maker Merck held data for three years that proved Vioxx caused an alarming increase in the risk of heart attacks and strokes. And yet Merck chose not to release that data. In fact, it took three more years of patients dying from heart attacks before Vioxx was pulled off the market, and even then, Merck insisted the drug was not dangerous.

This new study was based on a meta-analysis of several unpublished studies that Merck obviously didn't want to see published in medical journals. Drug companies routinely engage in this subterfuge: They cherry-pick which studies they want published while burying the rest. They also choose which studies to forward to the FDA, all while claiming the whole charade is based on "evidence-based medicine."

It is, sort of. If you add the word "selective" in front of the phrase, making it: "Selective evidence-based medicine."

So how were the authors of this new study able to find these unpublished studies that Merck would much prefer remained hidden? They were disclosed in court proceedings against Merck. So many people were harmed by Vioxx, you see, that some of them decided to sue. And in that legal process, many "secret" studies were revealed. Some smart-minded researchers decided to analyze the data in those studies and that's what reveals Merck knew Vioxx raised the risk of heart-related side effects by 35 percent and yet did nothing to warn the public about those risks.

In essence, these documents prove that Merck knowingly and maliciously allowed a deadly drug to continue to be sold to patients for years. It's a clear case of profits before patients from a drug company mired in one scandal after another. (Merck is also the maker of Gardasil, the cervical cancer vaccine.)

In its defense, Merck says its own scientists couldn't find any link between Vioxx and heart attack deaths. Understandably, it's difficult to find anything when your profits depend on not finding it.

The Merck conspiracy

Now that this data is public, it reveals that Merck's executives and / or employees were engaged in a conspiracy to withhold important drug safety data from the public and the FDA. The aim of this conspiracy was simple: To maximize profits through the sale of a product they knew was killing people.

Of course, only the naive are surprised to hear this. Informed NaturalNews readers already know this is the default behavior of drug companies. They'll do anything to make a buck, including fabricating clinical trial data, withholding important evidence, misrepresenting their drugs in television ads and lobbying lawmakers to make their drugs mandatory. The idea that they would knowingly sell a deadly drug to the general public -- while sitting on data for years that proved the drug was dangerous -- isn't really surprising. Not once you know how the pharmaceutical industry really works, anyway.

Many people (and many states) are fed up with the criminal behavior of drug companies. Nearly 10,000 individuals filed personal injury lawsuits against Merck over the Vioxx scandal. Most were settled for $4.85 billion in 2007, but many lawsuits remain. Eleven states' Attorneys General have also filed lawsuits against Merck, alleging the company committed fraud in its marketing of the drug to state Medicaid programs. Those lawsuits have yet to be resolved.

More legal action against Merck is no doubt on the way, as the company has engaged in questionable marketing practices spanning many different drugs (not just Vioxx). Drug companies like Merck have operated in the shadows for years, hiding data they knew would be damaging to their profits. These actions no doubt resulted in the needless deaths of tens of thousands of health consumers who would likely be alive today if this hidden data had been made public in 2001 when it was first known by Merck.

Merck's actions fit the legal definition of "negligent homicide." By withholding this important information, Merck indirectly caused the deaths of thousands of people. And yet somehow Merck's executives and employees are literally "getting away with murder" as there are no efforts under way to prosecute these people for their crimes.

I have to ask the obvious question: Why aren't Merck's executives being arrested and hauled off to prison for prosecution? If this were a Wall Street scandal, you'd see the head honchos in handcuffs, paraded on videos blasted across the evening news. But when it comes to pharmaceuticals, it's just business as usual. No one is held accountable. All those dead Americans essentially have their graves spit on by the failed justice system in this country that allows murderous corporations to continue killing more people with their deadly products.

The reason for all this is simple: America values money more than it values lives. When peoples' investments are destroyed, that's a crime. But when peoples' lives are destroyed by a dangerous pharmaceutical product, that's nobody's fault. Accountability is non-existent.

It sure puts America's priorities into perspective, doesn't it? Public safety has been all but abandoned by the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry -- an industry ruled by nothing other than the almighty dollar. And yet, here's something that puts it all into yet more perspective: According to Congressional testimony about Vioxx from drug safety experts, Vioxx alone killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam War.

Is that something worth investigating for potential prosecution? If you value human life, then yes, absolutely. So why do Merck's executives all seem to be immune to the law? Why is the Department of Justice too timid to go after one of the most dangerous organizations in the country that has killed many times more Americans than all terrorists combined?

Why isn't Merck on the FBI's "America's Most Wanted" list?

And why do the American people tolerate such corporate behavior on their own soil? Is killing people with chemicals any less serious than killing people with bullets? Imagine the public outcry if a car company sold a defective vehicle that resulted in the deaths of more than 60,000 people... that would be shocking headline news. But when it comes to pharmaceutical deaths, the people remain strangely silent.

And the reason? There's no video footage of people dying. Pharmaceutical deaths are silent, whimpering deaths. No fiery crashes. No flying body parts. No explosions to splash across the evening news. Just millions of people being individually and chemically snuffed out, all around the world, after taking patented prescription drugs sold by companies that lied to them about their safety.

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