It's a Beautiful Morning?
September 30, 2004 10:51 AM   Subscribe

In September 2001 the FDA warned Merck, makers of the painkiller Vioxx, for engaging in a promotional campaign that minimized "potentially serious cardiovascular findings." The previous year, Merck spent $161 million on Vioxx advertising (more than Pepsi or Budweiser spent on advertising that year). Earlier this year, a securities class action complaint was filed on behalf of several Merck investors alleging the company engaged in a marketing campaign that included false and misleading statements concerning the safety profile of Vioxx and that company insiders sold personally held shares of Merck for over $175 million in proceeds. Today, Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market.
posted by Otis (18 comments total)
Glad I don't own any Merck stock, down $12 in a day? Ouch!
posted by fenriq at 10:58 AM on September 30, 2004

So your 'ma goes into the doc for a sore shoulder and walks out with a prescription that will dramatically increase the risk of heart attack. Throw the book at them. Im sorry, I dont like the litigation, but dammit its the only way to convince the companies that comprehensive studies to prove the safety of their products is important.

Its not like this was curing them from cancer either. This is an advil-knockoff.

Additional details:
Two million patients are on Vioxx worldwide.
Management is discussing a slide: Out of 1,000 patients, 3.5 will have a heart attack by taking a placebo or Vioxx in the first 18 months; however, after 18 months, 7.5 patients will have a heart attack from taking a placebo and 15 will have one from taking Vioxx.
posted by H. Roark at 11:31 AM on September 30, 2004

This has nothing to do with Merck's putting profits ahead of the patients' health and rushing a potentially dangerous product to market, I'm sure.
posted by clevershark at 12:03 PM on September 30, 2004

"The company's shares slid as much as 28 percent, wiping out $28 billion in market value."

Ha Ha... eat shit Corporate Vampires!
posted by BobFrapples at 12:10 PM on September 30, 2004

Its just less money that they can be sued for, Bob.
posted by fenriq at 12:21 PM on September 30, 2004

Fold and mutilate is our man for COX-2 inhibitors. I'm hoping he'll see this thread.
posted by bifter at 12:29 PM on September 30, 2004

That's the depressing part - it's just a temporary loss, something to be handled and absorbed over the long-term financial picture of the company.

What's going to hurt them are the personal liability lawsuits, once dozens or hundreds of folks who've taken Vioxx for more than 18 months drop dead due to heart attacks. Heck, those folks don't even need to worry about whether the heart attacks were due to other causes - now that there's enough evidence to draw a direct link, they're screwed in the courts.
posted by FormlessOne at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2004

why is it what these things only get attention when they hit the financial page?
after the first successful lawsuit involving the whole neurontin scandal/mess, the class actions suits were many, and even though promised only misery and no compensation, it's the firms attempting to mount a case that suddenly didn't remember having anything to do with it.
enough people people cared about died so they're thinking hmm, maybe just handing out pills willy nilly is bad? maybe just saying they do stuff is not profitable?
surveys ask if you'd take more a drug if it was a nicer shape and color
rep referrals and direct advertising are irresponsible to say the least--

i could go on but i won't
all i'll say is now medicaid barely covers the medicine i need to take to counteract the damage of the drugs i was forced to take that made medicaid the only comprehensive coverage possible, and that it turns out it was a fuck up from the start, and without any big pay off in clear site, no body remembers anything to do with it but remember that guy with the grecian pool party and hey, martha deserved it--

the scary part of the scary part is i'm not sure how much they know they know any more, despite any options publicily stated.
posted by ethylene at 12:49 PM on September 30, 2004

Oh, joy. I've been on Vioxx before. Not only does it increase chances of heart issues, but... The damn stuff doesn't work.
posted by Samizdata at 1:02 PM on September 30, 2004

*ok, one more--
what about the abuse of cipro to it being pulled for being effective but widely misued?
what about the many allergy drugs that someone suddenly finds out can bring on stroke/coronary effect? (what about the old ones that got yanked i've saved for-- reasons--)
what about federal and common health insurance not covering allergy/birth control and related therapies/etc etc ad nauseum--
pharmacists deciding "you don't really need this"--
ok, i'll stop
the vioxx issue, like neurontin, like too many to mention, is too often sourced (at the same time) in segments of the population with means to do something/get noticed being effected or being too hard to ignore
if the drugs didn't gets pushed so fast, if they weren't needed so urgently, if people knew what the hell they were taking or cared, if people realize that there is a non adjustable time issue in sussing out possibilities in the first place, if people didn't want a black and white, yes no goodbad declaration so they didn't have to think---

where's the pharmacuetical ralph nader?

posted by ethylene at 1:14 PM on September 30, 2004

my mother relies on the stuff in order to function somewhat normally due to arthritis. now she's pissed.
posted by quonsar at 3:11 PM on September 30, 2004

Jeez. I have a bunch of Vioxx samples in my drawer right now. I'm glad I only took a few of them.
posted by litlnemo at 3:56 PM on September 30, 2004

My mother was on the stuff, too; it made a big difference in her ability to function. I guess she'll be moving on to, what is it?, Celebrex?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:32 PM on September 30, 2004

Well, I already lost the Vioxx travel mug I had, but I still have the nice leather edged folder. Maybe it will become a collectors item.

A great deal of that advertising money goes to doctors, and the occasional epidemiologist, in the form of useless gifts at conferences. Which get passed on to needy students they know. I wonder if Merck knows they have aided at least two different history degrees? They are really great folders, but I don't think either of us will be prescribing Vioxx any time soon.

About arthritis, I think there are other cox-2 inhibitors around. Also, there are non-pharmacological methods of treating arthritis that can help with functioning. (I used to work at an arthritis epidemiology research unit - I did the photocopying, but you pick things up). Most of all, contact your local Arthritis Society equivalent, if you haven't already, since they will have access to all of this research (they fund arthritis research) in easy to digest form, as to community help.
posted by jb at 7:04 PM on September 30, 2004

I guess she'll be moving on to, what is it?, Celebrex?

Yeah, Celebrex is the other widely-advertised COX-2 inhibitor. There's also Bextra. Merck also has a new one, Arcoxia, in the pipeline (it's already available outside the US). Novartis also just finished up a trial on their new drug, Prexige, which they say had a 79% reduction in ulcer complications and no increase in cardiovascular risks compared to other, less selective, anti-inflammatory painkillers. Prexige is supposedly the most selective COX-2 inhibitor developed to date.
posted by kindall at 7:32 PM on September 30, 2004

Anybody else think the "street" names for these drugs are kinda creepy? It's like they hire the same marketing department that comes up with Japanese car names.

Take some Prius and go drive around in your Prexige.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:18 PM on September 30, 2004

creepier/funnier is how they come up with them, man i wish i had those links--
posted by ethylene at 9:35 PM on September 30, 2004

Thank you for the information about non-pharmacological methods and new COX-2 inhibitors, jb and kindall.

Vioxx Facts also has some useful information about Vioxx alternatives and getting refunds on unused prescriptions.

Personally, I look forward to the release of Prexige. Hopefully the Vioxx debacle will not slow down the approval process of other COX-2 inhibitors.

And yes, C_D, the names for these drugs are creepy.
posted by stringbean at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2004

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