A prestigious medical journal on Thursday said Merck & Co withheld information about the dangers of arthritis drug Vioxx in a key study, an alleged lapse that analysts said could hurt Merck as it defends itself against Vioxx-related lawsuits.
The New England Journal of Medicine said it had determined that Merck deleted data about three heart attacks among Vioxx users, and other relevant data, prior to submitting its analysis from the so-called Vigor trial to the Journal in 2000.
The trial compared the safety of Vioxx with naproxen, a widely used rheumatoid arthritis drug. “The evidence has raised questions about the integrity of the data on adverse cardiovascular events in the article and about some of the article’s conclusions,” the Journal said in a statement on its Web site.
In response, Merck said it promptly and appropriately disclosed the results of the study, correctly stated possible risks of Vioxx and extensively disclosed the Vigor data to the medical community.
Vioxx was withdrawn in September 2004 after being shown to double the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients taking it for over 18 months. More than 6,000 lawsuits have been filed against Merck in the US, alleging Vioxx caused heart attacks and deaths.
The latest case, brought by a woman whose husband died after taking Vioxx for less than a month, went to a federal jury in Dallas on Thursday.