Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


"Ma Toot Hurts So Bad" Mock Newly Released Merck Emails

"Ma Toot Hurts So Bad" Mock Newly Released Merck Emails

by Martha Rosenberg
December 7, 2012


Click for big version.

As early as 2004, Merck knew its blockbuster osteoporosis drug Fosamax was causing osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) after in-office dental procedures and ridiculed afflicted patients. The condition, also called jawbone death, occurs when traumatized tissue doesn't heal but becomes "necrotic" and dies. "Ma toot hurts so bad" mimicked Merck bone scientist Don Kimmel in a 2004 email to Merck health science consultant Sharon Scurato about the type of patient who was developing ONJ. Such a patient "could be an oral hog," wrote Kimmel, then a bone scientist in Merck's department of Molecular Endocrinology/Bone Biology and trained as a dentist--someone with pre-existing infections and periodontal disease who omits preventative care.

Newly available emails and internal Merck documents reveal the company was far from concerned or surprised when ONJ-links to Fosamax surfaced in the early 2000's and launched elaborate spin campaigns to keep the $3 billion a year pill afloat. In fact, animal studies revealed ONJ in rats given bisphosphonates (the class of drugs Fosamax belongs to) as early as 1977 Kimmel admitted under oath in 2008.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of patients who say they developed ONJ after dental procedures like tooth extraction because they took Fosamax. Treating ONJ is almost impossible said dentists and oral surgeons quoted by the Review-Journal in 2005, because "further surgery in an effort to correct the problem only exacerbates it, leaving the patient with even more exposed bone and even more disgured," Jaw removal, bone grafts, and even tracheostomies were reported by the News-Press in 2006. "Even short-term oral use of alendronate [Fosamax] led to ONJ in a subset of patients after certain dental procedures were performed,” read a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association in 2009.

Besides attributing ONJ to patients' bad oral hygiene and, tautologically, their advanced years, Merck withheld crucial safety data from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) when the group sought to develop a position paper on bisphosphonate-related ONJ. Of 428 suspected ONJ cases related to Fosamax, 378 of which were highly likely to be ONJ, only 50 cases were shared with ASBMR, according to court documents. "I see the 50 with regard to the postmarketing," admitted Thomas Bold, Merck's director of clinical risk management and safety surveillance in 2009, upon viewing the slides Merck provided to ASBMR. "I don't see 378 mentioned and I don't know why that is the case," he conceded.

Though Don Kimmel (of the "ma toot" joke) was prepared for questioning by Merck lawyers, he said, for "approximately 60 hours," he was similarly confused under oath. He did not remember collaborating with researcher Jack Gotcher until he was shown their co-written paper. "Yes. This looks to be an experiment that Jack did," he allowed, but, when asked "Why is your name on it?" replied, "I think [I] assisted in it, and we talked about it."

Kimmel, an animal research expert who served as longtime Director of Animal Experimentation at Merck, also disagreed with colleague Gotcher's conclusions in a PowerPoint presentation that bisphosphonate drugs "caused ONJ" in rats. Despite decades of his own related research in rats, Kimmel said, "It's not proven that a rat is a reliable model of producing ONJ," and "Dr. Gotcher has a viewpoint." Nor was Kimmel certain about the applicability of experiments on dogs and rabbits to bisphosphonate effects in humans. There's no loss of bone in dogs on the drugs, he lamented, "even when you take their ovaries out" and Merck is repeating already completed human experiments on the drugs on rabbits to build lacking "confidence in the rabbit as an animal model."

Kimmel was less doubtful about the noxiousness of the ONJ condition itself and admitted to writing "Ooooh! Ickkkkk! Yuckkk! It's ONJ," on an informational slide he prepared about ONJ. But when asked if "That's a fair way to describe ONJ, it's icky, yucky, it's something you don't want to have, right?" Kimmel responded, "The outcome of ONJ is a lot different than the early cases."

*************

The complete story of bisphosphonate-linked ONJ is found in Martha Rosenberg's acclaimed expose, Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus Books, 2012).

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Valerie Morse: The Security State: We Should Not Be Surprised, But We Should Be Worried

On the very day that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released her report into the actions of people the Prime Minister’s office in leaking classified Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) documents to right-wing smearmonger Cameron ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: PFLP Soul-Searching: Rise And Fall Of Palestine’s Socialists

When news reports alleged that the two cousins behind the Jerusalem synagogue attack on 18 November were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a level of confusion reigned. Why the PFLP? Why now? More>>

Valerie Morse: Key And NZ Police At G20: What A Contribution

While 200 New Zealand police officers are helping to repress protests outside of the G20 in Brisbane this week, John Key has been inside pushing the interests of giant multinational corporations to fast track the World Trade Organization (WTO) ... More>>

ALSO:

Gabriela Coutiño: Ayotzinapa Caravan Meets With EZLN In Oventic

In their visit to Zapatista Territory, parents of the 43 students disappeared from Ayotzinapa Guerrero, agreed with the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), to articulate a national grassroots movement that would question forced disappearances ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Talk Of A Third Intifada: Where To From Here, Palestine?

When a journalist tries to do a historian’s job, the outcome can be quite interesting. Using history as a side note in a brief news report or political analysis oftentimes does more harm than good. More>>

ALSO:

David Swanson: Who Says Ferguson Can't End Well

Just as a police officer in a heightened state of panic surrounded by the comfort of impunity will shoot an innocent person, the Governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency preemptively, thus justifying violence in response to something ... More>>

Melanie Duval-Smith: Homeless Is Where The Heart Is

So, you are not allowed to feed the homeless on the streets of Florida. Last week, a 90 year old man and two Christian ministers were arrested for doing just that. I can hear the cries of the right wingers from here. “Not in our back yard”, ... More>>

John Chuckman: What We Truly Learned From the Great War and the Absurdity of Remembrance Day

No matter what high-blown claims the politicians make each year on Remembrance Day, The Great War was essentially a fight between two branches of a single royal family over the balance of power on the continent of Europe, British foreign policy holding ... More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news