Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hair-Raisingly Bad Spoof of Vioxx Problems? Merck Staffers Cut Up -- and Dyed -- Over Vioxx Woes. . . .

It seems a Vioxx trial is now underway in Australia -- involving claims about Merck's Vioxx -- very much like the civil class action suits now being settled via a judicially-supervised MDL process, here in the U.S. (while Merck's conduct is concurrently being formally investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice). I haven't covered Vioxx very much (at all) here -- but as the merger-time draws nearer, I just might start covering it. It is relevant, afterall, to the to-be combined companies.

So, with a hat tip to Marilyn Mann -- I'll excerpt some of the Australian press accounts of a "Beauty Shop" skit that Merck staffers apparently performed in 2003 or 2004. Do go read it all, but here is a bit from the article run in The Australian:

. . . .The script features three scenes where staff refer to Merck products in the context of nails, facials and hair products. Vioxx is described as a new hair colour that has a "50 per cent reduction in serious hair colour fading for patients".

"I've been HAIRING a lot of mixed reports lately about your new hair colour . . . what was it called again . . . Vitality?" one staff member says as the mock employee of Gloss, Smooth and Shine hair salon. "No, No, Vioxx," the other character says.

"Yes . . . I've heard quite a few mixed stories about Vioxx. In fact, there was something on the radio yesterday, I think it was on Hair Highlights on the ABC - yes, and it was saying Vioxx causes heart attacks," the salon employee character continues. "That's pretty worrying - what's the tangle behind that?"

The skit, tendered by the plaintiff in a class action against the US pharmaceutic giant and its Australian subsidiary, goes on to describe how some Vioxx patients with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems met criteria set by the US Food and Drug Administration -- which they call the "Frizz Disaster Area" -- and should be taking aspirin.

One character then plays down a study that found Vioxx increased heart attacks compared with another drug, naperoxide, saying some patients should have been on aspirin.

"Indeed 38 per cent of all MI (heart attacks) occurred in those patients who probably should have been taking aspirin," she says. "Therefore if we remove these patients from the equation, the data showed that MI incidence was 0.3 per cent for Vioxx and 0.1 per cent for naperoxide . . . (Add reason for difference)."

In reply, the character of the hair salon adds: "Well did it all blow-dry over after that?. . . .

Truly deplorable -- at least some (many?) patients' families believe that Vioxx was a factor in the heart attacks (and, in some cases, deaths) of their loved ones. That is no laughing matter -- or at least, it shouldn't be.


Anonymous said...

You should hear some of the types of jokes made by FDA staff about some drugs.

Maybe you will when the documents come out in court.

Condor said...

I don't doubt it for a minute.