Merck Settles in Missouri Class-Action Lawsuit

Last week, Merck agreed to settle a Missouri consumer class-action suit, which claimed the company violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act when it promoted and sold its pain reliever Vioxx. Merck removed Vioxx from shelves in 2004 due to evidence that it increased the risk of heart attacks.  According to the Justice Department, Merck began marketing Vioxx as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis shortly after being approved by FDA as a painkiller in May 1999. However, FDA had not approved it for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis until 2002. The settlement is reportedly for $220 million and Merck agreed to pay validated claims as well as approved attorneys’ fees, and settlement notice costs.

Merck’s press release on the settlement didn’t mention any admission of wrongdoing. In a company press release, Bruce N. Kuhlik, Merck’s executive vice-president and general counsel, said “This agreement is in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. It reduces the uncertainty of litigation and ongoing defense costs, and helps us to remain focused on bringing forward innovative products and services for our customers.” This is one of several recent examples of off-label drug promotion. Are the millions pharma companies end up paying in lawsuit payouts worth sidestepping FDA rules?

Merck and Merck Face Off

Stephanie Sutton Pharm Tech EuropeWe love social media here at, but many pharma companies have been wary about how to make the most of these new communication platforms—and understandably so given that last year Novartis received an FDA warning letter about a Facebook widgit on its website.

One pharma company that does seem to love social media though is Germany-based Merck KGaA—so much so that the company was prepared to go to court when its Facebook page was recently taken over by US rival Merck & Co. Read more »

Tax Breaks for Big Pharma: A Remedy for Unemployment?

Erik Greb PharmTech editorWorried about our persistently high rate of unemployment (and his bid for re-election), President Obama is urging Congress to pass portions of his jobs bill. In addition to aiding the economy, creating jobs could help reduce the number of people who are forgoing medications, which would be a boon for the pharmaceutical industry. Perhaps with this in mind, the Association of Clinical Research Organizations (ACRO) has thrown its weight behind a bill it says would create American jobs.

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Meet the New Drugs: Same as the Old Drugs

Erik Greb PharmTech editorStock prices have fluctuated wildly in response to factors such as persistently high unemployment, impending cuts in federal spending, and the downgrade of America’s credit rating. The already conservative pharmaceutical industry is hunkering down and socking away cash to be safe. Since January, Merck has saved $1 billion in cash, and Johnson & Johnson has saved $3 billion. The savings have come at the expense of R&D budgets, making observers wonder where the new drugs will come from.

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A Prescription for New Jersey, and for the Drug Industry

Erik Greb PharmTech editorMention New Jersey to someone on the street, and he or she is likely to think of Springsteen, the Sopranos, or (God forbid) Snooki. But PharmTech readers know that New Jersey is an important state for the drug industry. Many big companies, such as Johnson and Johnson, sanofi-aventis, Novartis, and Pfizer, have headquarters or other offices in the state. And the Garden State’s drugmakers are facing the same difficulties that confront the industry at large. Read more »

Novartis’s Overdue Overtime Payments

Erik Greb PharmTech editorOrganized labor is on the ropes, to put it mildly. Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states are on the brink of taking collective bargaining rights away from state employee unions. That’s why last week’s US Supreme Court action was particularly welcome to employees inside and outside the pharmaceutical industry. Read more »

Will 2011 Be the Year of Innovation?

Erik Greb PharmTech editorThe confetti from the New Year’s celebrations has settled, and drugmakers are busy planning their activities for 2011. Some people make New Year’s resolutions in hopes of bettering themselves or adopting good habits. After its recent disappointments, the pharmaceutical industry likely will resolve to improve its research and development (R&D) efforts. Read more »

A Changing of the Pharma Guard

Patricia Van Arnum PharmTech editor

This week, another pharmaceutical executive has stepped down, Elmar Schnee, head of the pharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA (Darmstadt, Germany). His departure follows other high-profile changes among the pharmaceutical executive ranks, namley Jeffrey Kindler leaving as head of Pfizer (New York) and Richard Clark turning over the helm of Merck & Co. (Whitehouse Station, NJ). These former executives and their successors face an all-too familiar challenge—the pressure for successful product development in light of looming patent expirations and the need to implement new strategies for revenue growth. Read more »

Eli Lilly: the Pharmaceutical Industry’s Everyman

Erik Greb PharmTech editorWall Street analysts gave Eli Lilly (Indianapolis, IN) executives the third degree last Thursday when the company presented its third-quarter results. Lilly’s revenue had increased only 2%, mostly because it had raised its prices. Although demand for its products had stayed flat, the company boosted its profits by 38% mostly through layoffs and cost-cutting measures. The patents on many of the company’s top drugs (e.g., Zyprexa and Actos) will expire in the next few years, however, and no new drugs seem poised to replace them. Analysts wanted to know how Lilly would weather the storm. Read more »

AIDS Vaccine Trial Planned by IAVI, Crucell, Harvard, Ragon Institute

Alexis Brekke Pellek PharmTech editorA new clinical trial for an AIDS vaccine will take place in Africa and the United States. The program, announced this week, is a collaboration between the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), which will lead the trial, biopharmaceutical company Crucell (Leiden, Netherlands), Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Ragon Institute, an organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS research. Read more »

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