U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon of New Orleans, who is overseeing thousands of consolidated federal lawsuits over Vioxx, ruled that Merck could depose a current editor and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, which last month criticized drug maker Merck & Co. for withholding data from a published study on its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx.
The depositions are to center on a December editorial in the journal that said Merck concealed three heart attacks suffered by patients in a large study published in the journal in November 2000. Merck has said those heart attacks happened after the study’s cut-off date for side effects, but journal editors say such data is routinely added until a study’s publication.
“The court should prohibit Merck from engaging in these retaliatory tactics because they run afoul of the protection journalists enjoy under the First Amendment,” an attorney for the NEJM wrote in a motion seeking to block the subpoenas.
What happened to the NEJM’s call for full disclosure and transparency?