“Whenever Merck was up there, it was like wah, wah, wah, ” said juror John Ostrom, imitating the sounds of Charlie Brown’s teacher makes in the television cartoon. “We didn’t know what the heck they were talking about.”
–Merck Loss Jolts Drug Giant, WSJ, 8/22/05
This quote really concerns me. The cornerstone of Merck’s case was that the death of Robert Ernst was caused from arrhythmia, not a heart attack. Vioxx has been shown to cause problems with blood clotting, but there is not been any association with irregular hearbeats. Instead, the jury chose to focus on a potential coverup of concerns about the drug.
I know that communication requires two parties – one transmitting and one receiving. It is clearly possible that the lawyers did not structure message for the audience (the jury). What I am more concerned about is a jury ignoring scientific evidence, because they don’t understand it. They deliberated on the case for a total of one hour.