Based on the emails that we have received from Vioxx victims and shareholders of Merck, it is easy to conclude that Merck has taken a very arrogant approach towards people who took Vioxx, Merck shareholders, and other pharma industry watchers. This has confounded everyone and there are several theories why Merck has shown no remorse for hurting as many as 139,000 Americans and even more people outside the United States. (Related article: Vioxx death estimate revised upward)
For instance, since Merck recalled Vioxx, the company has been flooded with both individual and class action lawsuits. Most analysts agree that Merck's liabilities will be around $18 billion. But Sanford Bernstein analysts estimate Vioxx liabilities to be $38 billion and other estimates put the liabilities to be as high as $55 billion. Like any other company would have done, Merck should have highlighted this liability in its financial statements and should have made a provision for it. On the contrary, Merck has made no provisions whatsoever for its Vioxx liabilities. (Related article: Merck's financials hurt by Vioxx recall controversy)
Since the recall of Vioxx, the company has mounted an aggressive attack on Vioxx victims and attorneys who are helping then seek compensation for their suffering. The company has refused to apologize for family members of those killed by Vioxx and those Americans who consumed Vioxx after the company aggressively marketed the drug claiming that it was a drug safe for human use, had fewer side effects and would make life of arthritis patients easy. (Related article: Merck heavily marketed Vioxx through direct to consumer advertising)
Now the same company is ready to fight it out with Vioxx victims in courtrooms across the country. Anita Larsen, a spokeswoman with Merck, conveyed the company's arrogant attitude by saying that the company is confident and intends to defend itself over a "number of years" in each of the cases filed across the country. "There's really a considerable burden to demonstrate that Vioxx as opposed to other factors caused the heart attack," she said, essentially abandoning its customers who made Vioxx a blockbuster drug and resulted in huge bonuses and raises for its CEO Raymond Gilmartin and other executives and a spectacular rise in its stock price. (Related article: Preparations begin on both sides for tough Vioxx trials)
This has made analysts and Vioxx lawyers wonder if there is something that Merck knows that no one else knows. There is overwhelming evidence against Merck that the company may have known as early as 1996 that Vioxx was a dangerous drug. There are reports based on internal memos and documents that company trained its sales representatives to duck tough questions about the drug's effects on the heart. A document called "Dodge Ball Vioxx" where each of the last four pages of potential questions that might be posed by physicians was emblazoned with "DODGE!" was used to prep Merck employees to avoid the topic of safety of Vioxx. (Related article: Merck leaves no options for Vioxx victims than to file lawsuits)
One theory that has been gaining credibility in recent weeks is based on the fact that since the recall of Vioxx, heat has been raised in Washington on the issue of banning class action lawsuits that will effectively eliminate the prospects of Vioxx victims to seek compensation for their pain and suffering. Both Merck and Pfizer (maker of Vioxx alternatives Celebrex and Bextra - both of which are being evaluated by the FDA) have embarked on a PR campaign designed to make it hard for Vioxx class action lawsuits to go too far. (Related article: Americans about to lose their right to sue drugmakers)
And it is obvious that the strategy is working. Merck has many friends in Washington starting all the way from The White House and Senator Orrin Hatch to Congressmen who owe their election to contributions from Merck and other lobby groups working for the pharmaceutical industry. It is no coincidence that PhRMA, the association of pharmaceutical industry, has hired Billy Tauzin, a retired Republican Congressman, to head its efforts to change the laws in the United States and deny the Americans the right to sue drugmakers. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, speaking on behalf of Merck said, "For example, it has been alleged that Merck trained its sales representatives to 'dodge' tough questions from doctors about Vioxx. I have reviewed the Merck training anual and I can tell members of the Committee this is not the case." Or in other words, he does not think Merck did anything wrong by knowingly marketing a killer drug. In fact, he continued by saying that the Senate was wasting its time discussing Vioxx recall case. "I do have concerns about why this Committee is holding this hearing, and holding it now....some are trying to punish one drug company for acting appropriately within the framework of our current regulatory system."