• by: |
  • 08/17/2006

I see today that Merck lost a lawsuit in which the plaintiff claimed that his coronary was caused by Vioxx; the fact that the patient needed a mutiple bipass operation apparently was used against Merck, the theory being that Vioxx never should have been prescribed for him, and would not have been had adequate warning been given.

Well. Assume all that to be true. Precisely how do we know that the heart attack would not have happened had the patient not taken Vioxx? As best as I can tell, we do not. And since the doctor presumably would like to avoid a malpractice suit, his testimony ought to be taken with a small grain of salt, even if in truth he is being wholly sincere. As the burden of proof is on the plaintiff—-even if only by a preponderance of the evidence—-it strikes me that yet again jackpot justice has reared its ugly head. Clinical trials can have only so many enrolled patients, as resources are limited always and everywhere, and so if an adverse effect of a drug emerges in, say, 1 out of 100,000 patients, it might not show up in a clinical trial substantially smaller than that. Is that “negligence?” The larger fear is that the pharmaceutical sector writ large will go the way of the vaccine sector, effectively destroyed because of litigation threats. Whom are future patients going to sue because better medicines were not available?


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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