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Vioxx death toll may hit 2,000 in UK

  1. enquirewithin
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    Brian Deer</span>

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    <td valign="top">THE
    families of as many as 2,000 British patients who died after using the
    painkiller Vioxx could join a potential multi- billion-dollar lawsuit
    against the drug’s manufacturers.

    Lawyers for many of the relatives are considering filing claims in
    US courts against Merck, the pharmaceuticals giant, after the Legal
    Services Commission decided not to fund any cases in Britain.

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    </td></tr><tr align="right"><td align="right">;

    </td></tr></t></table>The worldwide damages bill for Merck of £12 billion, predicted by Wall
    Street analysts, could rise even further after a landmark verdict in
    Texas on Friday when a court found the company negligent in the death
    of Robert Ernst, 59, and awarded his widow £141m.

    A Sunday Times investigation today reveals that volunteers
    taking part in a clinical trial of the drug in Britain were not shown
    essential safety information, including warnings of potentially fatal
    hazards.

    A total of 103 suspected Vioxx-related deaths have been
    officially notified in Britain. Most died of heart or gut complications
    after taking the drug. But calculations by The Sunday Times, based on
    known levels of under-reporting by doctors of medicine-related deaths,
    suggest that the true toll is closer to 2,000. About 60,000 people
    worldwide are estimated to have died from the drug.

    The families of the dead will be joined by patients who
    survived but who blame serious conditions, such as strokes and
    paralysis, on the drug.

    The Sunday Times evidence is similar to some of the
    revelations to emerge in the American courts, where 4,200 Vioxx cases
    are pending. Information about risks, available to the company and its
    experts, was not promptly given to patients.

    In one British case, Kenneth Wood, 71, a retired Shropshire
    laboratory technician, died of a massive heart attack while taking part
    in a trial to see if the painkiller could also be effective in treating
    colon cancer.

    A confidential Merck report, not revealed to Wood’s widow,
    described his death as “probably� caused by the drug. Other
    participants who suffered problems included a 73-year-old Leeds man who
    died from the complications of stomach bleeding; a 78-year-old man from
    Grimsby who developed angina; and a Yeovil woman, aged 64, whose heart
    failed after she started taking Vioxx.

    Informed consent documents and other confidential papers show
    that Wood was not told of any serious risks and that mounting concerns
    among scientists and regulators, which had surfaced several years
    earlier, were kept from trial participants.

    The trial, codenamed Victor, started in 2002 financed by Merck
    and was led by two of Britain’s most senior doctors. Professor Michael
    Langman, former dean of Birmingham University medical school, has been
    a member of the government’s committee on safety of medicines since
    1987. Professor David Kerr of Oxford University is a leading figure
    among Labour health advisers and devised plans to reorganise Scotland’s
    health service.

    Both men issued statements defending their actions. “The
    Victor study was run to the highest ethical and scientific standards,�
    said Kerr.

    Merck achieved a worldwide market of some 20m users, including
    400,000 in Britain, by promoting Vioxx as a miracle drug. It was said
    to offer all the painkilling and other properties of aspirin, but
    without the commonest side effect: stomach ulcers. Doctors prescribed
    it for pain control for everything from arthritis to sports injuries.

    The documents that have emerged suggest evidence of serious
    problems with Vioxx which were downplayed. Enthusiastic marketing of
    the drug continued until its sudden withdrawal last year.

    The company has said that it will fight every case and will
    appeal against the Texas verdict. “We believe that the plaintiff did
    not meet the standard set by Texas law to prove Vioxx caused Mr Ernst’s
    death,� said a member of Merck’s defence team.

    Earlier this year the company’s British subsidiary insisted
    that it had acted promptly on information about risks: “We are
    confident in our research and how Merck has communicated about Vioxx.�




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    Thank god we are protected from harmful things like medical marijuana in the UK!!</font>


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    Edited by: enquirewithin

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