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AuthorTopic: Vioxx
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Just this afternoon a jury decided that Merck Pharmaceuticals should pay damages of $253 million to the widow of a man who allegedly died as a result of using its product Vioxx. $253 million. About one-tenth of this award was for mental pain and suffering, and the rest of it falls in the punitive damages category. Although Merck is purported to be worth $105 billion dollars, it is worth noting that there are over 4000 comparable cases filed, and the facts supporting their claims generally are much stronger than in this particular case.

Having just finished reading a book about a disasterous coal mining-related accident in 1972 (a dam burst, essentially wiping out ten towns and killing 125 people) where the subsequent lawsuit and settlement netted the plaintiffs - 650 people - a total sum of $13.5 million, which wasn't chicken scratch back then, I guess I'm just a bit taken aback by the scale of the current trend in massive rewards. Are the courts/attorneys/plaintiffs going too far? Do the defending pharmaceutical companies deserve what they're getting?

I definitely am of two minds about it. On the one hand, Merck was in the very least negligent in its marketing of Vioxx, and deserved to be punished for it on a scale that it could feel, hence the size of the reward. However, is it right at all that the punishment - the vast majority of the $253 million be awarded to the widow alone?

What do y'all think?

EDIT: I just read that Texas law (where the case was decided) significantly limits punative damages, so that the scale of the total award may be limited to about $29 million, but still - with the sheer number of cases involved, the hit to Merck will be enormous.

[ Friday, August 19, 2005 11:59: Message edited by: Drew ]
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
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As a footnote, all shareholders of Merck stock are left holding the bag. My stepdad owns around 4000 shares, which was great before the news of problems hit. Now, I dunno.

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Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
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Nobody likes pharmaceutical companies. Even molecular biologists and synthetic chemists who rely on the pharmaceutical companies for their livelihood don't like them very much. Having said all that, they do occasionally provide products that do more good than harm. While a $253 million hit to the hip pocket certainly isn't going to bankrupt Merck, it's going to make them even more hesitant to bring new drugs to market, and I'm not convinced that's going to be good for patients in the long run.

Patients need to be made more aware that any new drug will have potential risks that can't be detected through clinical trials on any reasonable scale. It isn't solely the fault of the pharmaceutical companies that patients currently tend to ignore these risks.

[ Friday, August 19, 2005 18:26: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
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Problem is that it's turning into a compensation culture, these days. You've got a million and one companies being set up, just for something as little as standing on your foot. When you hear stories like people being awarded several thousand pounds, just because they fell over, it's just getting stupid. And I don't mean excessively cracked pavement-falling over, I mean just a polished floor at work and not actually taking any care, whatsoever-falling over.

It's becoming a systemic problem, where people are demanding compensation for all sorts of things. Would you honestly credit the idea for having to pay any form of compensation to someone you fire for, say, incompetence? Yet it occurs in the fun form of severance pay.

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Posts: 1487 | Registered: Sunday, February 10 2002 08:00
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Instead of giving all this money to (probably) already rich people, why not give it to poor countries or protecting the environment?

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Posts: 576 | Registered: Wednesday, March 2 2005 08:00
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The people receiving the awards aren't necessarily rich, at least, not rich prior to the case.

Ideally, the money would just vanish into thin air. That way, the problem of who gets it afterwords (because in theory, no one "deserves" the punitive damages, not even causes like the ones you named, Spring, however much they need resources) wouldn't exist. Alas.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00