Vioxx comes to Madison County

The Madison County Record Feb. 18, 2007, 6:00am

The Metro-East has never been one to miss out on the latest and greatest mass tort trend. So it figures we'd eventually get knee-deep into the painkiller Vioxx, the reigning big dollar bandwagon for plaintiff's lawyers from Belleville to Birmingham, ever since Merck pulled it from the market in October 2004.

Recruiting aggressively and immediately over the television airwaves, it took just five months for Brown & Crouppen to cue up a worthy client. Starting Tuesday, the St. Louis-based plaintiff's firm will argue our region's very first Vioxx trial.

But you daytime TV fans spoiling to spy tough, home grown Terry Crouppen, perhaps accompanied by his chummy pitchman William Shatner (a.k.a. Denny Crane), dressing down big, powerful Merck in a Main Street courtroom will be disappointed.

Shatner won't be on hand. And, save to bring some pseudo-local celebrity karma to his side of the aisle, Mr. Crouppen himself won't be in court, either.

Lawyers from Alabama and Texas, armed with sweet but markedly un-St. Louis southern drawls, will do the heavy lifting for Brown & Crouppen, known for its marketing and settlement nudging, not its litigating.

Because unlike targets in past fads dragged to Edwardsville, Merck isn't content to pay off plaintiff's lawyers just to go away. The company is committed to defending itself, to its credit and everyone else's benefit.

By "everyone else" we mean you and I. We mean the rest of us, who won't be in that courtroom but will be impacted greatly by whatever result comes out of it.

For this isn't another rum-dum consumer fraud clash; for the entire U.S. pharmaceutical industry and those who rely upon it, there's much at stake. How Merck fares against the likes of Terry Crouppen will have real consequences upon new drug development tomorrow.

Wish someday we'll find that cure for cancer? Then it's time to tune in. Your name isn't on the docket, but this one's about you.

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