Well, so much for the "18 month window" theory that Merck was desperately trying to validate in the hopes of limiting the scope of the eventual settlement of the Vioxx litigation. Yesterday several of the leading figures in the medical community, in particular the New England Journal of Medicine, asked to have their earlier conclusions on the safety of Vioxx on short duration cases changed to reflect corrected data indicating the potential of increased cardiac risk. Dr. Gregory D. Curfman, in today's Boston Globe made it very clear that the journal wanted to alert it's readers to their new conclusion on the potential risk of short term use.
Also, long time critic and leader in the medical community, Dr. Steven Nissan of the Cleveland clinic repeated his concern that the initial studies were flawed, and that with the correction in the data and conclusions of the study the misleading assumption of no risk inside of 18 months has been exposed for what it was, a tactical attempt to limit the pool of potential litigants.
I've been saying for over a year now that the one trial at a time tactic, with new trials this week starting in LA and NJ, is suicidal for Merck, primarily because the longer this goes, the more evidence there is to be uncovered on the drug, it's potential harm and the risks it could have caused uniformed patients. The cost is going to go up, and up, and up and no matter what any individual trial brings, the slow weight of the facts and the collective efforts of the trial bar are going to create an ending to this that won't favor Merck. The only real question at this point in my mind is when does Merck begin crafting a global settlement strategy and remove the spectre of this litigation from it's stock price and earnings.