The makers of the anti-inflamatory drug Vioxx, Merck & Co., are being accused of scientific misconduct, suppressing clinical evidence and stifling medical discourse by a prominent cardiologist, Dr. Eric Topol. Topol, chairman of the cardiovascular medicine department of the Cleveland Clinic, claims, “Vioxx’s risk has been evident since trails were conducted in 1999 and all the way through the time of withdrawal in September 30, 2004.” Vioxx has been shown to nearly double heart attack risk when taken for more than 18 months. Merck currently faces about 7,000 lawsuits with an estimated $50 billion at stake. The first trial centers around Richard “Dicky” Irvin, who died in may 2001 after only one month of taking the prescription for his back pain. Merck is maintaining innocence, stating that the negative side effects were apparent after 18 months of use, not just one month.
Having been a former recipient of Vioxx, I find the one month death a scary thought. Vioxx was a handy drug in that it took away pain without leaving me dopey. It is frightening to know that Merck might have known about the negative aspects so early on, and yet did nothing to stop the production or marketing of the drug.