In an unusual Saturday session in the US District court in Houston, TX, prominent and nationally renown cardiologist Dr. Eric Topol yesterday referred to certain aspects of Merck's behavior in it's handling of Vioxx both "repulsive" and "appalling".
I referred to the video taped testimony that was allowed in by Judge Eldon Fallon a couple of days ago, but yesterday was our first glimpse at what exactly the doctor had to say, and it was definitely not something Merck wanted any jury to hear, particularly from someone with the pedigree of Dr. Topol who is the chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Topol essentially said that Vioxx can cause heart attacks any time after a patient starts taking it, and that these risks were readily apparent all the way back in 1999 and were either ignored or covered up by the company. This is riveting reading as you see the pressure brought by Merck on both Dr. Topol and the board of directors of the Cleveland Clinic to tone down his assessment of Vioxx's dangers back in 2000, and to distort the scientific inquiry into possible cardiac risks of the popular pain medication.
This is stunning testimony and you can get copies of transcripts as well as news summaries at Wall Street Journal online, which originally reported the existence of the video testimony of Dr. Topol.
There is little doubt but that this is one more example of the hazard of dragging on this litigation under the "try them one at a time" strategy. More evidence will come out, more witnesses will come forward, the news will get worse, not better and subsequently the cost to settle will sky rocket. While this might sound like good news to trial lawyers, it carries huge risks that the problem "gets to big" for Merck to cope with, and a federalized solution is created. In our "Civil Reaction" podcast commentary on The Legal Broadcast Network, Attorney Jan Schlichtmann and I discuss this very concept in response to the recent Newsweek article driving home that exact point. You can listen to it on our archives or at the Yahoo site. We also have a great wrap up by Attorney Daniel Becnel on the Vioxx case as well as several other mass tort's that you will probably enjoy listening to as well.