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During the 1960s Merck faced some controversy with regard to its arthritis medication Indocin. Starting in the mid-1970s, Merck was one of more than two dozen drug producers and distributors sued by large numbers of women who said they suffered from vaginal cancer and other medical problems because their mothers had used the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES).

The following year Schering agreed to pay $500 million in penalties to the federal government to settle charges relating to manufacturing violations at four plants dating back as far as 1998.

In 2001 press reports began to appear suggesting that Merck’s heavily promoted arthritis drug Vioxx (and a similar drug made by Pharmacia) might not be as safe as they were initially believed to be.

In 2004 Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market after being notified that users were found to have an elevated risk of heart attack or stroke.

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By Philip Mattera For decades Merck had a sterling reputation for integrity and high-quality research in a pharmaceutical industry whose other major players were often regarded in a much less favorable light.

For a long time Merck also avoided the merger mania that afflicted its rivals.

That reputation fell to pieces in the early 2000s amid revelations suggesting that the company had sought to suppress evidence of safety problems with its arthritis medication Vioxx.

The company ended up paying billions of dollars to governments and individuals to resolve thousands of lawsuits related to its actions.

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