New England Journal of Medicine: Merck Concealed data

Just as the first federal Vioxx case is sent to the jury, a stunning announcement has been rolled out by the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine that the Merck in it's article, which came to be known as the VIGOR study, deliberately omitted data regarding three additional heart attack deaths of study members. The full text of the NJM study is here, while the full text of the NJM statement is here.

The report, nicely outlined in the Forbes Online edition, also mentions other deliberately omitted data that called into question the entire conclusions of the Merck sponsored study and the conclusions drawn in the article they submitted to NEJM.

The price of Merck stock plunged on the news and Merck, and what is particularly problematic for Merck is that one of the authors of the article, Dr. Alise Reicin testified earlier this week that Merck never misled the public or doctors about it's studies and the conclusions they reached. This greatly vindicates the testimony provided earlier in the trial by Dr. Topol who was vilified by the defense in their closing arguments, but who now stands with even greater credibility then before.

More on this tomorrow but as I have said before and I will say again, the tactic of trying one case at a time and putting up a defense is suicidal for Merck, and that as time goes on the ugly truth often comes out and the price to settle is dramatically higher. I'm going to predict right now, that the pressure as the stock drops again is going to bring institutional stockholders increasingly into the scene demanding a resolution to this situation, or you can expect a potential take over or proxy battle to gain control of the company. They will not stand still and watch this company go into the tank for much longer, and will demand action.

This is just starting to get interesting.

Posted on December 8, 2005 .