Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Looks like it's been a series of fairly bad days for big-Pharma megalith Merck, although you'd never know it to look at the mainstream news. In late June, a lawsuit that has been pending since 2010 was ordered "unsealed." That means, in real world terms, that the Defendant must now stop pretending to the public that it doesn't exist.

Two former Merck virologists allege that Merck defrauded the federal government when it sold millions of doses of vaccine that it knew to be of waning effectiveness. In a special kind of whistleblower lawsuit that allows private people to stand in the position of the government to stop fraud in government contracts, the former Merck scientists claim that Merck knowingly phonied up study results about effectiveness of the mumps vaccine in its famous MMR (measels, mumps, rubella) concoction, to hide the fact that the vaccine was becoming less effective as the virus mutated.

They allege that Merck, in its effectiveness studies, only used the "domesticated" version of the mumps virus--the one its vaccine was made from--and not the wild versions of the virus that people would actually be exposed to in the real world. They also allege Merck overstated effectiveness of the vaccine when it directed its scientists to "count" the viruses killed by animal antibodies that are sometimes added to samples to make it easier to find the human antibodies generated by the vaccine. So basically, Merck's effectiveness numbers included not only the viruses killed by the patient's immunity, but also those killed by a separate agent--sort of like if it poured Clorox on the samples and then claimed that its vaccine killed all the viruses the Clorox got. Finally, the virologists say that Merck fired labs whose results didn't agree with theirs, and threatened their employees with jail if they contacted FDA about the phony results. Nice.

And, only a week after the 2010 whistleblower case was unsealed, a chain or primary-care medical clinics also sued Merck, alleging that it intentionally overstated its vaccine's effectiveness to maintain a monopoly on the MMR vaccine market and make some extra money.

For its part, faced with public allegations that it phonied up test results, Merck says, "It's important to understand that none of the allegations in the complaint relate to the safety of M-M-R II and we remain confident that M-M-R II helps protect against measles, mumps and rubella as described in the labeling for the vaccine." Sort of a non-answer to the question whether it lied about the drug's effectiveness, isn't it?

So, just in the last several months, we've seen revealed that the statins people take to lower their cholesterol (so they don't have to eat right or exercise to do it) cause diabetes, muscle weakness, and memory loss. We've seen GlaxoSmithKline criminally convicted and fined $3 billion (about 10% of its profits for selling the drugs in the first place) for fraudulently marketing its antidepressants and diabetes drugs despite knowing of potentially fatal risks it wasn't disclosing. Now, Merck and its cash-cow-give-it-to-everyone-MMR. Kind of makes you wonder whether drugs are really helpful, or just very profitable.

So, how many prescriptions are YOU taking?

Read more about the lawsuits against Merck here, here, and here.

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