By Dr. Joseph Mercola
with Dr. Daniel Chong
If you read Dr. Angell's book or many of the articles I have run on this site detailing this evil behavior, I sincerely believe that Merck would receive the winning prize for the 'most serious disregard of ethical behavior that has influenced the largest number of people.' In case you're not familiar with them, they are the company that killed over 55,000 people with their drug Vioxx.
This is really sad as Merck has a long-standing history of being at the forefront of the entire drug industry for providing leadership and high ethical standards. It is unclear to me why they developed such sordid business practices in recent years.
Statin Drugs and CoQ10
While Lipitor is clearly the market leader for statin drugs, many may not realize that Merck started this market by introducing Mevacor and then Zocor. They have been passed up by Pfizer, though, with Lipitor.
While the statin drugs millions of Americans are taking are certainly effective at what they do, very few people realize that they can be equally as dangerous. Well-recognized, potential side effects printed in safety information for each drug include liver dysfunction, muscle disease and kidney failure.
An equally problematic, yet lesser known, danger of statin drugs involves their ability to block the production of CoQ10 in your body. Found naturally in meats, in particular beef heart, CoQ10 is also a popular dietary supplement used mostly for boosting energy, stamina and heart function. CoQ10 is a vital nutrient, possessing powerful antioxidant capabilities, and is essential for cellular energy production in every cell of your body, particularly your heart and liver.
Dr. Julian Whitaker, world-renowned author, nutritional expert and co-founder--along with Dr. Linus Pauling--of the California Orthomolecular Medical Society, states that, "Patients who take statin drugs without CoQ10, particularly those with a history of heart disease, are especially prone to developing complications that can have fatal consequences."
Merck's Shenanigans Unveiled Again
While never widely publicized, this negative effect of statin drugs on CoQ10 levels has actually been known for years. In fact, according to Dr. Whitaker, in 1989 and 1990 Merck felt these effects were so clearly important that they actually patented the use of CoQ10 in combination with statin drugs. Products containing this important combination should have hit the market soon afterward. However, Merck chose not to exercise these patents, nor to help educate doctors and patients on the potential dangers of ingesting statins without CoQ10.
"I'm at a loss as to why Merck refuses to exercise these patents or, at the very least, add a warning label describing the potentially detrimental effects of not taking CoQ10 with its statin products," Whitaker said.
One of Merck's patents actually states, "Since CoQ10 ... is of benefit in congestive heart failure patients, the combination with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statin drugs) should be of value in such patients who also have the added risk of high cholesterol." Amazingly, this patent was filed on June 12, 1990, and yet no drug reflecting this combination has ever been produced!
An equally infuriating phenomenon is that, to this day, even with the popularity and prescription numbers of statins soaring into the stratosphere, many prescribing physicians and their patients remain ignorant about these important findings.
In an effort to remedy this tragic situation three years ago, Dr. Whitaker wrote a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to insist that all manufacturers of statin drugs include warning labels with these medications, describing the importance of supplementing CoQ10 along with their prescriptions. In his petition, Dr. Whitaker recommends the "use of 100 to 200 mg per day of supplemental CoQ10, to reduce the risk of statin-induced myopathies (muscle diseases), which include cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure."
As of yet, no such warning labels have been put to use.
More Merck Mischief
If the preceding information has helped enlighten you as to the wayward behavior of Merck & Co., please also be aware that this has not been their only foray down low-integrity pathways.
The following incidents have also been chronicled on this site. If you would like to read the full stories summarized below, be sure to click on the highlighted text within each description:
In 1991, nearly a decade before the first public disclosure, a memo from Merck showed senior executives were concerned that infants were getting an elevated dose of mercury in vaccinations containing the preservative thimerosal. The memo disclosed that 6-month-old children who received their shots on schedule would be receiving a mercury dose nearly 87 times higher than guidelines for the maximum daily consumption of mercury from fish. In addition, it included the following recommendation: whenever possible, particularly among use in infants and young children, vaccines with mercury should be eliminated.
In September 1999, amidst concerns about the risks of mercury in childhood vaccines, Merck stated that the FDA had approved a preservative-free version of their vaccine. And, despite Merck's news release at that time, which stated, "Now Merck's infant vaccine line is free of all preservatives," the company continued to distribute vaccines containing thimerosal until October 2001.
Undisclosed company documents also show that Merck was in the process of beginning a major cardiovascular study of the drug Vioxx, which the public now knows can cause serious cardiovascular side effects, in 2002. However, Merck suddenly dropped the project just before it was set to start. The data from this study, which would have been released by March 2004, may have provided answers about Vioxx's risks even earlier. It was not until September 2004 that Merck put a stop to a separate study when patients in that trial experienced heart attacks and strokes at twice the rate of those receiving a placebo.
While it would be difficult to argue that any major drug company actually holds your health as its number-one priority, Merck's behavior clearly identifies them as one of the most ethically compromised drug companies. If you are a person who buys stocks, you might want to avoid purchasing their stock. But wait, you might know that already since they lost nearly $30 billion (more than 25 percent of the company's value) after the Vioxx risks were uncovered and stand to lose another $20 billion in the upcoming lawsuits.
Seems like they are reaping the fruits of the evil behavior they have sown over the years.
Dr. Daniel Chong is a licensed naturopathic physician practicing in Portland, OR. His practice focuses on the use of nutrition and herbal medicine in the management of chronic illnesses. He may be contacted at:
Chiropractic and Naturopathic Physicians Clinic
12195 SW Allen Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97005
Whitaker, J.M., M.D. Citizen petition before the Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration, November 24, 2002.
Brown, M.S. Coenzyme Q. sub. 10 with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. United States Patent 4,933, 165. June 12, 1990.