News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Merck’s deception argument against some lawsuit limits

The revelation that pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck & Co. doctored the results of a clinical study of its popular arthritis drug Vioxx is another example of how greed sometimes trumps the public's welfare in today's business climate.

The New England Journal of Medicine revealed in an editorial Thursday that Merck failed to report heart attacks in some patients participating in the Merck-funded trial.

"The health of the public, of many, many thousands of people, was at stake here," New England Journal of Medicine executive editor Dr. Gregory D. Curfman said.

The bottom line is that Merck fudged data and jeopardized thousands of lives in order to pad its profits. Such corporate greed deserves punishment.

Unfortunately, cases of corporate greed at the expense of the health of the public are not new. Lawsuits have targeted manufacturers of products containing asbestos, for example, as a result of hundreds of thousands of painful deaths suffered by those exposed to that carcinogen. Decades of medical research have shown a clear connection between asbestos exposure and lung disease. Yet the industry continues to deny the link.

What connection do the asbestos deaths have with the latest revelations about Vioxx? Both the asbestos and pharmaceutical industries have strong lobbies in Washington urging lawmakers to limit their liability in lawsuits stemming from the deaths their products cause. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has said an Asbestos Trust Fund bill will be the first major legislation considered when the Senate returns in January. The bill would limit the liability of companies that knowingly put the public's health in danger in order to feed their corporate coffers.

Companies that knowingly put the bottom line above the public welfare do not deserve liability limits. They deserve punishment for their despicable deception and greed; punishment that deters future fraud and deception.

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