from 19 August 2005

It's simultaneously a milestone for consumer advocacy and a major setback for Big Pharma: a Texas jury has found Merck & Co. liable for the death of a Vioxx patient, and it has awarded the widow $253.4 million in damages. The 10-2 jury vote sends a powerful message to drug companies around the globe: if you continue to manufacture and sell products that kill people, you will eventually pay the price.

A whopping $229 million of that jury award was designated as punitive damages. This shows that members of the jury not only found Merck liable for the direct financial costs of one death, but they also saw Merck's actions as unethical, dishonest and punishable. This award is saying that Merck should pay for being evil.

Now, of course, that's just one interpretation of the jury's decision. Merck's own lawyers would no doubt disagree, and a verdict appeal is already underway. But even Merck can no longer deny that the free people of this land, when given a fair look at the evidence, will overwhelmingly vote to punish the company for its rather obvious wrongdoing. When you keep selling a deadly drug for years after your own research shows it to double the risk of heart attacks, that's something most people would consider evil, if not downright criminal.

You see, drug companies can control the media through advertiser influence; they can control the FDA through corruption and collusion; and they can control doctors and consumers through bribery and distorted advertising. But they can't control the outcome of a jury of everyday people who finally woke up and saw the obvious: pharmaceuticals are killing us.

Pharmaceuticals are dangerous to your health

As I have written on this site, pharmaceuticals are in fact 16,400% more dangerous than terrorists. Even legal, FDA-approved pharmaceuticals kill 100,000 Americans each year. That dwarfs the number of Americans killed by terrorists, automobile accidents, murders, and all forms of violent crime combined. Modern medicine is, astoundingly, the fourth leading cause of death in this country.

Today, a Texas jury said, "Enough is enough!" It sent a message that Big Pharma can no longer ignore: when you manufacture and sell a product that outright kills people, it's going to cost you. Just like it did Big Tobacco. Most likely, Big Pharma, has only seen the beginning of this backlash.

Now it's time to ramp up the Vioxx lawsuits all across the country, then hit the drug companies with litigation on other drugs, including over-the-counter drugs.

As many as 60,000 Americans may have been killed by Vioxx alone, according to figures from the FDA's own drug safety department. Likewise, an astounding 16,500 Americans are killed each year from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by over-the-counter pain medications. While the FDA consistently minimizes the dangers of drugs and seemingly does everything in its power to keep deadly drugs on the market, the legal system in this country is now showing it can fight back and begin to seek some small semblance of justice by holding drug companies financially accountable.

Still, regardless of the outcome of this trial or future ones, the real story here has yet to be told. The real story is not merely that Merck is responsible for manufacturing a drug that has killed tens of thousands, but that the pharmaceutical industry itself is engaged in holocaust-class crimes against humanity that exploit human suffering for corporate profits.

Many of today's top pharmaceutical companies are, in fact, the corporate offspring of the very same pharma operations that owned and operated concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Back then, it was all done under the justification of political / military victory. Today, it is done under the justification of modern medicine. The result, however, is much the same: millions of people dead, billions of dollars in profits.

With this $253 million verdict, this Texas jury has opened a window of possibility that could spark a massive outcry and popular retaliation against these drug companies that are killing our seniors, drugging our working class, and chemically lobotomizing our children. In a nation of genuine justice, this award will stand, and it will unleash a tidal wave of legal action against these corporate monstrosities that have taken from us our mothers and fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters and even our children. In any other context, the sheer number of victims would be considered casualties of war, and the free people of this country would rise up to defend their families against such assaults.

This war, it seems, will be fought in the courtroom. And today, Merck just got a dose of its own medicine.