Spinning Vioxx stories.

It's always nice to know your blog is read in high places, as The Settlement Channel blog was mentioned in the PointoLaw.com blog, a very impressive production of the conservative think tanks at The Manhattan Institute and American Enterprise Institute. One of the better examples of collaborative blogging by a variety of house experts, all apparently chosen for their strong right wing and tort reform leanings, as well as strong academic credentials.

They took issue with my last blog post headline in which I stated that given the revised NEJM position, coupled with the changes by the lead authors, "A few months of Vioxx can likely cause cardiac harm." Now I will admit when I wrote the heading I did pause, thinking it might be slightly overstating the findings of the article. However, if you read on to look at Dr. Nissan's analysis and look at the other evidence coming to light almost weekly, there is little doubt of two things. One, that the 18 month window was most likely nothing more then a litigation and PR tactic for Merck from the beginning ,as Merck was from day one in possession of the correct numbers on the Approve study, and two, that Merck has engaged the usual allies of the tort reform goliath to begin spinning the results of this incredibly damaging information. While we can certainly debate the science of these studies, to appease the good folks at Pointolaw.com, I will concede that in my disgust over the initial fraud of hiding the numbers that my heading might have over stated the conclusions of the revised article somewhat. I probably should have titled it, " NEJM revision highlights increased risk of Vioxx and utter stupidity of Merck" but that might have raised a few hackles as well. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Merck's credibility is taking another huge hit on this one, which is something they can ill afford in the medical and financial community that are their true constituency in this Vioxx mess. If investors tire of the slow steady release of bad news and increasing litigation risk, and if the medical community begins to lose faith in Mercks' ability to truthfully explain and disclose the risks of it's medications, the company is at far greater peril in the big picture then just the cost of the Vioxx litigation.

What I found intriguing as I read through the PointoLaw.com blog site was how they have taken up the banner for Merck and decided they need to capture this issue in the blogosphere as another example of trial lawyers over reaching, and a good old American icon being needlessly attacked just to enrich the plaintiffs bar. Again, simplification, but you can read their well written analysis here, which I encourage you to do if for no other reason then to get both sides of this issue and determine who is really trying to spin results. They have authored several posts on spinning results of trials and medical data in the press and in blogs, so it really is worth your time to read it over.

I get a chuckle of them naming me as a pro-plaintiff blogger, as given my 25 years dedicated to protecting the assets of personal injury victims and helping them rebuild their lives, is hardly something I'm ashamed of. I figure far better that i'm labeled with the dreaded "pro-plaintiff" moniker, then being a corporate apologist for billion dollar drug companies that knowingly withheld clinical study results that raised the likelihood of their most profitable product being pulled by the FDA, all because it inconveniently killed a few people, and disabled a few more. I mean it's only a few people out of thousands, what the big deal here? We wouldn't want the trial lawyers, who along with a few courageous doctors who exposed this disgrace, to bring harm to Merck all because a few unwitting innocents died or had their lives ruined. Where is the justice in that? Mistakes happen, right?

As anyone who knows me the slightest bit is aware, my political views and voting are somewhat to the right of Ronald Reagan, and have been for decades. It's one of the wonderful tensions of my business that most of my client attorneys are devoted democrats and liberals, and yet on the issue of tort reform, justice for the broken of our society and access of every American to the courts, we couldn't be more in sync. I find it timely that just this week Time magazine has one of the three great Republican Presidents on it's cover, that being Teddy Roosevelt ( and the other two in my opinion Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan). If anyone who read their history knows, TR was the model of activist, non-corporatist, republicanism, and I don't doubt for a minute but that he would be leading the charge against a drug company that manipulated numbers, paid for wide distribution to doctors of flawed survey numbers to sell their product, and then now frantically try to spin the aftermath as another reason for tort reform, all to save their hides and protect profits. It's shameful corporate behavior and one that will play out to it's inevitable conclusion.

Have a great Forth of July. Rejoice that we live in a country with free debate, open courts and the right to disagree peacefully. We are the luckiest people on earth to have been born to this country at this time in history.  

Posted on June 30, 2006 .