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September 18, 2007: New York Sues Merck Over Vioxx

The New York State Attorney General and the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, have together filed a lawsuit against Merck seeking damages for fraudulent sales of Vioxx, which cost the taxpayers of the State and City millions of dollars in overpayments for a dangerous drug.

Vioxx is the poster child for all that is wrong with the pharmaceutical industry today. It is terribly disappointing that a company like Merck, once respected as the most ethical company in the world, would let marketing and sales trump science and integrity. But that is what happened, and innocent patients suffered unnecessary heart attacks, strokes, and deaths – not to mention a plethora of other negative side effects caused by Vioxx, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, osteoporosis, hypertension and edema, and bleeding ulcers. Indeed, Vioxx may be the most toxic pharmaceutical drug ever prescribed to patients.

We depend on pharmaceutical companies to be honest and ethical and to balance the health and well being of patients with the bottom line. When the balance is tilted in favor of profits over integrity, the pharmaceutical industry can cause terrible harm, heartache, and burden to patients, to the health care system, and to the economic well being of our society. That is the sad truth about Merck and Vioxx.

When all of the Vioxx litigation is over, and Merck has admitted their mistakes and corrected, to the extent they can, the harms they have caused, we all would do well to carefully consider what has gone wrong, and how to fix it. We want and need pharmaceutical companies to be good corporate citizens and to put the interests of patients – not profits – first and foremost.

Eric H. Weinberg

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