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Medical Journal Issues Vioxx Study Correction

The New England Journal of Medicine has issued an unusual correction to a paper it published last year on the painkiller, Vioxx. The change undermines a key feature of drug maker Merck's defense against thousands of product-liability lawsuits.

Vioxx was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after a study called APPROVe showed that the painkiller doubled the risk of heart problems.

In court, Merck has argued that the risk to patients didn't begin until 18 months of use, and that short-term use of Vioxx was safe. Many experts disputed that, but Merck's position was strengthened by a carefully worded statement in the New England journal, which said the risks "became apparent" 18 months after the study began.

The journal corrected those statements today. It said that a statistical error by Merck undermined the evidence for them. The journal deleted two references to the 18-month delay, and weakened two others.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Snigdha Prakash
Pieces by National Desk reporter Snigdha Prakash can be heard on NPR's All Things Considered and Morning Edition. The majority of Snigdha's past reports have focused on topics related to entrepreneurship, business, banking and the economy.