Merck admits a significant data error on Vioxx

As long time readers of this blog know, I've been saying that Merck is going to regret it's "one trial at a time" strategy, primarily because of one fact. That fact being that the longer this drags on, the more information and data is going to come out about Vioxx that is ultimately going to explode the cost of the eventual global settlement that has to end this litigation.

Well, today's NY Times has an illuminating article that adds more fuel that argument. You can read the article here, but essentially Dr. Peter S. Kim, Merck's chief scientist admitted that data from an earlier study which showed no risk on cases where the plaintiff took Vioxx for less then 18 months were not at risk.  

This absolutely strikes at the heart of one of Merck's primary defenses, that being that anyone who took Vioxx for less then 18 months couldn't produce evidence that there was an elevated risk, such as existed on the 18+ month cases. This was a foundational aspect of their defense, in that it allowed them to concentrate their legal fire power on eliminating those cases from the trial/settlement pool, and then work out a method of trying or eventually settling the longer duration cases. As shown in this article, that tactic might be obliterated by this revelation, and the cost and risk of trials just went up dramatically.

He who hesitates is lost. Or in this case, the company that decides to defend the indefensible, might very well be lost. If I was a stockholder i'd be calling someone at Merck this morning, or calling my broker. This isn't good long term news.

Posted on May 31, 2006 .