The withdrawal of Merck's "super aspirin," the COX-2 specific inhibitor Vioxx from the market may be as distant as the 2004 Bush-Kerry presidential election in the public's memory.
But it's not distant for Whitehouse Station, NJ-based Merck.
This week the drug giant's profits plummeted 90 percent from dedicating $950 million to resolve a government criminal investigation into Vioxx research and marketing, says the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Merck, accused by the New England Journal of Medicine of concealing "critical data on an array of adverse cardiovascular events" caused by Vioxx, already paid $4.85 billion in 2007 to settle thousands of Vioxx product-liability lawsuits.
Nor is it over for the 27,785 patients who suffered heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths according to the Wall Street Journal.
Merck used Olympic gold medalist ice skater Dorothy Hamill to sell Vioxx -- I skate "five days a week for up to three hours," despite osteoarthritis she says in one ad -- and pushed it for everyday minor pain like menstrual cramps.
Merck sold Vioxx as safer and more effective than simpler aspirin and other over-the-counter pain relievers (and some suspect was behind warnings about the safety of Advil and Aleve, publicized soon after Vioxx hit the hot seat.)