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Commentary

Vioxx-type danger and legal frivolity
Robert Goldberg, Ph.D., Washington Times, 8-24-05

Goldberg, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, argues that while the courts arenít the right place to set public policy, there is a valuable lesson to be learned from the Vioxx experience: Merck and other companies should use personalized medicine technologies to develop drugs for specific patient populations and help avoid dangerous side effects.

If Merck had pursued the path of personalized medicine, it would not be facing massive lawsuits. In 1998, Garret Fitzgerald, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted research suggesting that the cardiovascular problems with Vioxx were linked to a genetic variation that increased prostacyclin production significantly than those without the mutation. He asked Merck to conduct small studies with animals and small groups of patients to determine if this were the case and what mutations were involved.

Such research could have been used to develop diagnostics to discover who will benefit most from Vioxx. Ironically, even as Merck is fighting 4,000 wrongful death lawsuits, it wants to bring Vioxx back for a smaller group of patients using such molecular tools. Better science, not big damage awards, are the way to safer and more effective drugs.


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