Well, it's certainly hitting the fan now.
As the revelations of Merck's apparently deliberate omission of three deaths that occurred in the VIGOR study become more widely reported, and further details come out, it is obvious that the decision of whom ever to omit the deaths from the report, AND, then to give the disk containing the report and the omissions to NEJM is going to be potentially devastating to Merck's Vioxx defense. Forbes online again has a great article for your reading on the players and events.
Already a motion for mistrial in the Houston MDL in Judge Fallon's court was filed this morning with the Judge taking it under advisement.
Where Merck has made it's biggest mistake, in my opinion, is that now many more doctors and pharmacists are going to feel that they were lied too about the risks of this product, and their anger may have far greater impact on Merck then even the litigation. As shown in this ABC news report the backlash from the medical community is just starting. No medical professional wants to be put in a position where they are giving a dangerous drug to a client, and Merck's article and defense was geared to placate the people who write and fill prescriptions as much as anyone over the last 18 months. To betray their trust through deliberate massaging of statistical data is going to have a huge impact on the firm, and this might be the blow that drives management to the bargaining table even more then any verdict that comes out of the MDL. As one national pharmacologist said, " this is both extraordinarily serious, and if true, extraordinarily stupid" on the part of Merck.
And to think they probably could have wrapped this up for about 15 billion last February if they had moved aggressively.