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On September 30, 2004, Merck voluntarily withdrew rofecoxib from the market because of concerns about increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with long-term, high-dosage use. Rofecoxib was one of the most widely used drugs ever to be withdrawn from the market. In the year before withdrawal, Merck had sales revenue of US$2.5 billion from Vioxx.
This is actually not the first time the integrity of studies involving Vioxx have come into question. Last April, we reported that an analysis of court documents uncovered in the course of Vioxx injury lawsuits found that Merck & Co. employees worked alone or with publishing companies to write Vioxx study manuscripts and later recruited academic medical experts to put their names as first authors on the studies. According to the analysis, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Merck’s involvement in producing the data wasn’t disclosed in many cases.