The drug company that made Vioxx, the painkiller that was responsible for at least 60,000 deaths, may have known about the drug's dangers within a year of its launch, new research has discovered.
Merck & Co voluntarily pulled the drug in 2004, and faced the world's largest ever class-action suit that was settled only after a $4.85bn payout to relatives of dead patients in 2007.
Under new disclosure rules, researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have had access to early studies that point to the drug's risks of causing heart problems and blood clots. These early trials were conducted in 2000, just a year after Vioxx (rofecoxib) was approved. The drug quickly became a commercial success, and had annual sales of $2bn.
(Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009; 169: 1976-85).