While litigators have had a field day in court with Merck's arthritis pain-relieving drug Vioxx, a majority of prescribing physicians surveyed recently believe the benefits derived from the drug outweigh the risks.
A study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) indicated that 80 percent of the orthopedic surgeons it asked believe Merck's former wonder drug ought to be back on the market.
It was pulled off the shelves in September 2004 after studies indicated use of Vioxx could lead to heart problems.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the CEI's findings are not surprising.
"These physicians work regularly with people suffering from chronic pain, specifically from arthritis for which there is usually no cure other than joint replacement," the WSJ report stated. "Trained in the vagaries of medical treatment, they also know that almost all drugs have risks. So they see no sound reason Vioxx should be ruled out as an option for patients who can't find relief elsewhere."
More than 100 product liability/personal injury suits against Merck over Vioxx have made their way into Madison and St. Clair County courts in the past two-and-a-half years. The first local Vioxx trial is scheduled to begin later this month. (See related story).
After Vioxx was removed from the market, and the nation's courts were flooded with thousands of claims, congress pushed the Food and Drug Administration for stronger regulation.
In the CEI study, 175 orthopedic surgeons surveyed seem to agree "that the FDA is generally overcautious, not too lenient, when approving new drugs," the WSJ reported.
The survey respondents (76%) said the FDA approval process is "too slow" and the doctors said that "on balance" FDA regulations "hinder" rather than help their ability to treat patients.
The WSJ reported that a CEI survey taken of oncologists in 2002 produced similar findings, "lest anyone dismiss this survey as a one-off."
"This year promises to be an important one for the FDA, with the complicated Prescription Drug User Fee Act up for reauthorization and a number of Senators urging even stricter regulation under the guise of 'reform'," the WSJ report stated. "Congressmen could do worse than listen to what doctors have to say about the current system before they make valuable treatments even harder to obtain."