The New England Medical Journal has intervened in a highly public way to influence lawsuits against the pharmaceutical company Merck over Vioxx’s links with heart attacks and strokes. Its executive editor, Dr Gregory Curfman has accused Merck of deleting data and underreporting the number of heart attacks in a crucial study published in the NEJM four years ago. "In criticising Merck and the study’s authors at a time when the company’s credibility is at issue in lawsuits, the journal is taking an extraordinary step," commented the New York Times. "The publication is well respected and widely read by doctors and scientists, with a circulation of almost 200,000."
Merck faces more than 6,000 lawsuits brought by or on behalf of people who suffered heart attacks and strokes after taking Vioxx. Only two have been decided, the first against Merck and the second in its favour. The jury is weighing up the evidence in a third case.
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