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January 23, 2006
Merck versus the New England Journal
Tuesday and Wednesday of this week are the days when Merck's attorneys are scheduled to question Dr. Gregory Curfman of the New England Journal of Medicine and another unnamed staffer. The journal's handling of the published Vioxx data (the VIGOR study) looks as if it could be a key part of the next trial, which will be in lawsuit-friendly Rio Grande City, Texas, with jury selection beginning this week. Note that the late plaintiff had taken Vioxx for all of seventeen days.
Naturally, both sides are saying that they expect the facts to help them out. The plaintiffs will argue that the recent editorial in the NEJM confirms that Merck was trying to hide the risks of Vioxx, and Merck will argue. . .well, they might argue several things. For one thing, they'll try to show that the journal's suspicions about altered data are unfounded. But I also have to wonder if my theory from last month is going to get aired out, too. Will Merck's attorneys ask if the journal has been approached by representatives of the plaintiffs?
We'll have to wait until the the next trial to see if any of this makes it into the courtroom. For now, I think it's interesting and unusual enough for Merck to be putting a journal editor under oath. They must feel as if they've got a pretty good reason for doing it. And they'd better. . .
For pre-trail reading, here's a law professor from Fordham who says the whole spectacle isn't making our liability law system look very good.
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