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Commentary

Vioxx Verdict
Wall Street Journal, 8-22-05

The Journals editorial points out that, no matter what the final outcome of the Texas case, two things are certain. First, now that there is blood in the water, more Vioxx suits will be filed. Second, despite earlier recommendations from an FDA advisory panel, the drug is much less likely to return to market since Merck is now struggling for its corporate survival.

At the very least, Merck's setback is sure to inspire more suits beyond the 4,200 that have already been filed in state and federal court. Another trial is slated to begin next month in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the first federal trial is scheduled for November in New Orleans. The lawyers have already been trolling for clients with a PR campaign of unprecedented size and scope. More of the 20 million people world-wide who took Vioxx may now be inclined to answer one of those "Call 1-800. . . ." ads and play contingency-fee roulette.
Like all drugs, Vioxx has risks and side-effects but was hardly an "unsafe" drug. Earlier this year, an FDA advisory panel recommended that the drug go back on the market, with appropriate re-labeling. But after Friday, and given the brutal vagaries of the American tort system, the question is less about Vioxx's survival than Merck's.


Project FDA.
  
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