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By now, it’s hard to be surprised by bad news about drug giant Merck, maker of the painkiller Vioxx, who “voluntarily” withdrew the drug from the market in September 2004 after it had caused thousands of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths.

Being outraged at Merck, on the other hand, is easy—and now we have even more reason to do so. Just before Thanksgiving, the Archives of Internal Medicine published an article finding that Merck had “clear evidence” that Vioxx increased the risk of heart attack and stroke as early as December 2000—three and a half years before it pulled Vioxx from the market.

The peer-reviewed study analyzed both published and unpublished research into Vioxx to discover when Merck could have reasonably concluded that the drug raised the risk of stroke and heart attack. During the time Merk was marketing Vioxx, it did not make most of the data used in this study publicly available to independent researchers, but instead, hired ghostwriters to promote Vioxx’s positives while grossly downplaying its negatives.

For its own part, Merck has denied any wrongdoing, surprise surprise. I sincerely hope that something similar is not going on with Merck’s HPV vaccine Gardasil right now. Just a few years ago, Vioxx was all the rage with doctors, hospitals, and patients all over the country. Now, Merck is paying out nearly $5 billion in lawsuits for the strokes and heart attacks it negligently, greedily caused. The way Merck is now aggressively marketing its HPV vaccine Gardasil to America’s young people (before adequate testing has been performed) feels frighteningly similar to the way it handled Vioxx. Please read more about Gardasil’s adverse effects and Merck’s blockbuster ad campaigns if you are considering getting vaccinated or vaccinating your child.

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