Monday, July 18, 2005

Drug Company Merck Cover-Up of Test Data

We spend most of our time here going on about Big Pharma's long-time wide-scale cover-up of the devastating effects of psychiatric drugs, especially the class known as SSRIs such as Prozac, Luvox, Paxil and others. But an interesting side note of our investigation of this group of companies shows that their actions, which are criminal in our opinion, are not limited to psych drugs. They believe in cover-up and put very little value on human life.

The latest information about Vioxx is a case in point.

Merck pulled Vioxx from the market when evidence began to mount that it was killing people -- causing heart attacks. Vioxx is supposed to be a pain reliever. But people who took the drug started having heart attacks by the bucket full. Within a year after its initial release in 1999, public studies found that people who took it were as much as five times more likely to have a heart attack.

The FDA investigated, Merck pretended to cooperate, but fought for the continued approval of the drug. They wrangled with the FDA for two years, then agreed to a warning label, and off they went again with sales of the drug. But they were finally forced to remove it from the world market after new studies showed without a doubt that the drug doubles the risk of heart attack if the drug is taken for an extended length of time.

There are plenty of pain relievers, of course, but in our opinion the release of Vioxx was for the same reason a lot of the new drugs get released. The drug companies lose their patent on an older drug, and subsequently they lose profits. So they dream up a newer drug that can be patented -- never mind the value of the old drug that still works fine.

That's just background to what came out this week. Merck internal documents that show Merck knew the drug would cause heart attacks have surfaced. They were given inadvertently to a plaintiff's attorney in a lawsuit. We are told that the judge in that lawsuit suppressed the documents because they were inadvertently given to the plaintiff, and were subject to attorney-client privilege. So they never came out.

But they won't go away, and this time they are being splattered all over the press, regardless of whether a judge allows anyone to use them in court; and another judge might have a different opinion about that issue -- we'll see.

A side comment: It's a sad thing when "legal" procedure prevents a court from being able to prove a crime has been committed by suppressing the truth. The truth is the truth.

These memos document an internal Merck dialogue involving the patent office, where they realized the drug was causing heart attacks, and they considered adding another chemical to Vioxx that would reduce that risk! In fact, they patented the changed formula -- but they didn't use it.

Why they abandoned the idea of altering the Vioxx formula to reduce the heart attack risk isn't known. But like the makers of Prozac, Paxil and other killer drugs, Merck knew it would kill people, put corporate profits above ethics, and covered up.

The lawsuits go on. But when will our justice system, which is a part of a government that is swimming in money from drug companies, realize that there are corporate executives here guilty of manslaughter? When will that happen? It's just a matter of time. So far the drug companies have been able to avoid close scrutiny by using their financial power. Only recently a law was passed that the approval board of the FDA has to be made up of people who are not on the drug company payroll. That's a start. Now we need to look at the politicians who are beholden to drug companies and figure out who is looking the other way, and for what reason.

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