Merck Must Pay $4.5M Judgment in New Jersey (NJ) Vioxx Suit | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What must drug makers tell patients about medication risks?

I’m tempted to say “everything,” but I don’t really think that would serve anyone well. What patients do need to know — and what only drug makers are in a position to disclose — is what potentially deadly and disabling risks come from using medications. Even when such a risk is very small, patients need to know about it so they don’t find themselves in a game of Russian roulette they didn’t realize they were playing.

What got me onto this line of thought was Wednesday’s announcement that the Supreme Court of New Jersey (NJ) had upheld a $4.5 jury verdict against Merck for failing to warn users about heart attack and other cardiovascular risks from the drug. Merck had fought this lawsuit and similar ones ever since the company pulled Vioxx off the market in Sept. 2004. The withdrawal came in the face of growing evidence that the COX-2 painkiller not only caused heart attacks that the company had failed to disclose, but also that Vioxx worked no better than other products on the market.

Eventually, having lost almost time it went to court over Vioxx, Merck did settle pending suits for more than $4 billion. The company had sold $2-3 billion worth of Vioxx each year between 1999 and 2004. I’d call the settlement an unearned win for the company.

Still, having represented victims of medical malpractice and medication mistakes for more than 20 years, I’m happy that Merck was held to its responsibility to warn about medication risks in the Vioxx cases that went to court. I hope other drug makers will take the message to heart that they need to place patient safety and education above profits.

About the Editors: Shapiro & Appleton& Duffan personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers. We also host a YouTube injury law video library with more than 50 videos covering many FAQs on personal injury subjects. Lawyers with Shapiro & Appleton& Duffan are licensed in VA, NC, SC, WV, DC and KY. They handle car, truck, railroad, medical negligence cases and more.