Whistleblowers: Merck hid declining efficacy of MMR shot

Two former Merck ($MRK) employees lodged a whistleblower suit against the drugmaker, alleging that it overstated the effectiveness of its MMR vaccine. The False Claims Act lawsuit says Merck didn't revise its claims about the combination shot's efficacy, despite the fact that it had become less effective. So, the employees say, government health programs paid for the product for 10 years without knowing it didn't live up to the company's claims.

As Dow Jones reports, Merck disputes the allegations, calling them "completely without merit." The company also points out that the Justice Department has declined to join the whistleblower suit, which was filed two years ago, but unsealed last Thursday in a Pennsylvania federal court.

"It's important to understand that none of the allegations in the complaint relate to the safety of M-M-R II and we remain confident that M-M-R II helps protect against measles, mumps and rubella as described in the labeling for the vaccine," the company said, as quoted by Dow Jones.

The M-M-R II vaccine is designed to protect against mumps, measles and rubella, and it's recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for routine use in children. The former employees' lawsuit contends that Merck defrauded the U.S. government by hiding a decline in its effectiveness. The two plaintiffs ask for three times the actual damages, plus the maximum amount for whistleblowers allowed under the FCA.

- read the Dow Jones story