Vioxx and Merck: Monday update

Forbes.com: How to defend Merck
“One of Merck’s main goals will have to be to limit the number of patients who can claim they are owed money. In clinical trials, Vioxx was linked to an increase in heart attacks, strokes and some other heart problems. But it never was linked to arrhythmias, the cause of death written on the death certificate of Robert Ernst, the victim in the first Vioxx lawsuit. By one line of logic, that should have made it easy for Merck to argue that Vioxx did not cause his death.

Unfortunately, Birnbaum says, getting science across to a jury can be incredibly difficult. ‘It takes some very good lawyering to do that, because laypeople, it’s hard for them to differentiate between arrhythmias and heart attacks,’ says Birnbaum.”

BBC: Widow ‘encouraged’ by Vioxx case
“A south Wales widow who alleges the painkiller Vioxx killed her husband has welcomed the £141m awarded by a US jury to an American woman.

Maureen Watt, from Bargoed, is one of hundreds in the UK hoping to take legal action against the US firm Merck.”

NY Times: Vioxx Verdict Raises Profile of Texas Lawyer
“To jurors, Mr. Lanier’s performance may have appeared unscripted, but he meticulously planned the trial’s smallest details, down to his choice of wedding band. Outside the courtroom Mr. Lanier wears a heavy band engraved with Hebrew and Greek lettering, but in front of jurors he prefers a simple gold band so they will not be distracted. For the same reason, he wore the same blue suit each day. He also hired a private investigator to examine the jurors’ criminal records in search of potential hidden biases.

With the help of a 13-member shadow jury that was paid to watch the trial and report to consultants hired by Dr. Robert Leone, his in-house jury psychologist, Mr. Lanier refined his arguments each evening in Suite 922 at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Houston, where he and several members of his team stayed during the trial.”

Corante: In the Pipeline:
“You would think, to hear the way some people talk, that no one at Merck ever took Vioxx. That they just launched it onto the market with an evil cackle and a shout of ‘Caveat emptor’, then sat back to watch the money roll in. Actually, employees of Merck very likely took Vioxx at a rate above that of their cohorts in the general population – employee discounts, you know. I’ve no doubt that this applies to Merck’s marketing department, to their clinical development groups, and to their toxicologists. Why shouldn’t they take their own company’s drug if they’re in need of a COX-2 inhibitor?”

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