Case Study: Merck & Co's Vioxx and the Death of a Tri-Athlete

Topics: Ethics, Pharmacology, Business ethics Pages: 2 (718 words) Published: September 27, 2013

“After less than 11 hours of deliberation, a Texas jury yesterday found Merck & Co. responsible for the death of a 59-year-old tri-athlete who was taking the company's once-popular painkiller, Vioxx.” The man’s widow was awarded 253.4 million in damages. Merck was a leading pharmaceutical company established in 1981. They produced groundbreaking drugs during the late 1980’s and were considered one of the most ethical and profitable companies in the industry. However, Merck’s reputation started declining throughout the 1990’s. In 1999, Vioxx was approved by the Food and Drug administration to treat acute pain in arthritis patients. After 11 years with the company, Merck’s CEO, Raymond Gilmartin resigned the day that congressional investigators released documents stating that the company knew of Vioxx’s potentially harmful safety issues but continued to promote them. Gilmartin was said to be a “risky choice” when positioned as CEO because of his inexperience in the pharmaceutical industry, but was also honored because of his “highly ethical” work style. In the late 90s, Competition in the pharmaceutical industry was at its highest. Merck’s representatives in the sales department were told to keep quiet about their new drug, Vioxx’s potential cardiovascular side effects. Merck unethically increased their marketing of Vioxx even though they knew it was directly linked with increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Another main ethical issue presented in the case is that Merck underreported the number of deaths from Vioxx to the public. Although certain aspects of business can be challenging, withholding information from the general public is an unethical act that almost always leads to litigation. The information withheld was a clear violation of an individual’s basic rights. During the VIGOR trial, 8,000 individuals were tested to determine the differences between naproxen (generic Aleve) and Vioxx. The results stated that the COX-2 inhibitor,...
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