Vioxx Recall

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Vioxx, the brand name of the drug rofecoxib, was a product of the Merck pharmaceutical company. It was a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and was used to relieve pain from arthritis and other acute pain conditions. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it in May 1999.

At its peak, Vioxx was prescribed to two million people in the United States and many others around the world. Doctors were glad to prescribe it, as patients reported it was highly effective and had minimal side effects. While other NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, often damaged the stomach lining, Vioxx and drugs like it were specially designed not to do that. The idea was that there are two kinds of enzymes at play, COX-1 and COX-2. COX-1 helps produce the material that lines the stomach, which is good; COX-2 helps produce pain and inflammation, which is generally bad. Previous NSAIDs attacked all the COX varieties, including the stomach-lining kind, which is why taking ibuprofen can lead to ulcers. Vioxx and its kind were created to target COX-2 only.

It seemed like a marvelous solution at the time, and for millions it was. Many patients reported their arthritis pain was relieved, and without the usual side effects of anti-inflammation drugs. But, soon questions arose concerning Vioxx's long-term effects. There was evidence that it increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes when used regularly in large doses over a long period of time, specifically 18 months or more, which was how it was prescribed for many patients.

Several studies were completed by reputable research groups, including the Cleveland Clinic and The University of Pennsylvania, all scrutinizing Vioxx and its competitors. Some of the initial studies that had led to the drug being approved by the FDA were shown to be misleading, incomplete, or questionable. Merck continued to deny any wrongdoing, but they received pressure from research organizations who reported the serious side effects of Vioxx. In addition, the FDA issued the company warnings regarding their advertising, calling it misleading and saying that it minimized the potentially serious findings about possible cardiovascular complications.

In September 2004, Merck voluntarily took Vioxx off the market. It was one of the most widely used drugs ever to be withdrawn from public consumption – sales from Vioxx brought Merck approximately $2.5 billion annually.

Lawsuits began almost immediately after Merck issued the recall of Vioxx. When the recall was announced, many lawsuits were filed against the Merck company, from individual lawsuits to class action cases, seeking compensation for medical expenses as well as pain, suffering, and mental anguish in conjunction with the serious effects of Vioxx. By pulling the drug off the market, Merck was perceived as conceding that the drug was harmful, which helped many plaintiffs make their cases. In 2005, a Texas woman filed and won the first lawsuit against Merck. The jury found the pharmaceutical company to have been negligent in the death of her husband; the company was ordered to pay the claimant $253.4 million in damages. Merck continued to fight the lawsuits, but the writing was on the wall and the damage was done. Vioxx, once a huge moneymaker, turned into a costly disaster for the Merck company, and the question for the courts now is whether Merck should have been more diligent about testing Vioxx before marketing it, or whether the unfortunate side effects were in fact unforeseeable.

If you or a loved one suffered a cardiovascular complication in connection with the use of Vioxx, it is strongly recommended that you speak with an attorney. A lawyer based in your state will review your case and determine if it is within the statute of limitations and is viable. If it is, he or she will help you pursue compensation for medical expenses, as well as for the pain and suffering you may have endured.

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