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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 12358

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.

 

Publication type: news

Todd S.
Great defender: Merck's new general counsel ready to guide the company beyond Vioxx
The Star Ledger 2007 Dec 23
http://www.nj.com/business/ledger/index.ssf?/base/business-1/1198388158225530.xml&coll=1


Full text:

Bruce Kuhlik, who became Merck’s top attorney five months ago, likes a challenge — whether it comes in the form of a crossword puzzle or a major product liability case.

When Merck’s former general counsel, Ken Frazier, asked him to serve as one of nine associates in 2005, the company was still reeling from an onslaught of tens of thousands of lawsuits resulting from the withdrawal of the widely used pain relief medicine Vioxx.

Kuhlik, 51, was brought in to help coordinate the company’s defense. “I knew it was going to be a big challenge,” he said.

Richard Smith, who worked with Kuhlik at Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry’s trade group in Washington, D.C., said it was just like his former colleague to go to Merck in the midst of such a daunting legal challenge. “Bruce has always embraced tough jobs,” Smith said.

In August, Kuhlik, who has focused on pharmaceutical law for years, landed his dream job, succeeding Frazier as senior vice president and general counsel.

“It’s a great industry to be a lawyer for,” Kuhlik said. “There are a tremendous number of interesting and complicated issues that come up.”

In the coming year, Vioxx will continue to be an issue, although the majority of pending lawsuits are expected to be resolved under a proposed $4.8 billion settlement announced last month. And, as Kuhlik emphasized, “there are other issues” for Merck’s legal department to tackle, including intellectual property and regulatory matters.

Kuhlik got his first taste of pharmaceutical law as a young attorney. At Covington and Burling, he helped defend Eli Lilly in a product liability case involving the anti-inflammatory drug Oraflex. As the most junior lawyer, he worked primarily on discovery, he said.

By then, he already had a penchant for details. As an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general, Kuhlik, who was still in his 20s, argued appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court. In preparation for one case, he read a multivolume treatise on bankruptcy. “I wanted to be sure I didn’t get asked a question I didn’t know the answer to.”

“I enjoy the technical aspects of (law),” Kuhlik said, “but I also enjoy making and helping to make the strategic decisions.”

Smith said one of Kuhlik’s strengths is his ability to think through broad strategies on the one hand and deal with details on the other. “He’s the first person you think of when you need to work though a problem,” said Smith.

“He’s one of those people,” he said, “who everyone gravitates to for really sound judgment, for a second set of eyes, to kick around ideas with.”

BRUCE KUHLIK

Job: Senior vice president and general counsel, Merck

Born: Sept. 7, 1956

Family life: Married, three children

Residence: Princeton

Education: Harvard Law School; bachelor’s degree, Harvard College

Career highlights: Senior vice president and general counsel, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry trade group; partner, Covington & Burling law firm, registered lobbyist for drug companies; assistant to the solicitor general, U.S. Department of Justice

Currently reading: “Washington’s Crossing” by David Hackett Fisher

Favorite movies: “Casablanca” and “Animal House” — “They just appeal to different parts of my brain.”

How he clears his head: Doing the Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle at a Starbucks.

Downtime: Running, reading, listening to Baroque music

Best moment of 2007: The day of the (Vioxx) settlement, when there was a Webcast for employees: “There was such positive energy. It was a tremendously powerful emotional moment.”

Worst moment of 2007: The day studies were halted on Merck’s HIV vaccine.

Resolution for 2008: “I want to get to know the people in the office of the general counsel and the company’s public affairs organization.”

 

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