Repost: Chinese Melamine and American Vioxx: A Comparison


By Ron Unz | April 18, 2012

In contrasting China and America, pundits often cite our free and independent media as one of our greatest strengths, together with the tremendous importance which our society places upon individual American lives. For us, a single wrongful death can sometimes provoke weeks of massive media coverage and galvanize the nation into corrective action, while life remains cheap in China, a far poorer land of over a billion people, ruled by a ruthless Communist Party eager to bury its mistakes. But an examination of two of the greatest public-health scandals of the last few years casts serious doubt on this widespread belief.

First, consider the details of the Chinese infant formula scandal of 2008. Unscrupulous businessmen had discovered they could save money by greatly diluting their milk products, then adding a plastic chemical compound called melamine to raise the apparent protein content back to normal levels. Nearly 300,000 babies throughout China had suffered urinary problems, with many hundreds requiring lengthy hospitalization for kidney stones. Six died. A wave of popular outrage swept past the controlled media roadblocks and initial government excuses, and soon put enormous pressure on Chinese officials to take forceful action against the wrongdoers.

China’s leaders may not be democratically elected, but they pay close attention to strong popular sentiment. Once pressed, they quickly launched a national police investigation which led to a series of arrests and uncovered evidence that this widespread system of food adulteration had been protected by bribe-taking government officials. Long prison sentences were freely handed out and a couple of the guiltiest culprits were eventually tried and executed for their role, measures that gradually assuaged popular anger. Indeed, the former head of the Chinese FDA had been executed for corruption in late 2007 under similar circumstances.

Throughout these events, American media coverage was extensive, with numerous front-page stories in our leading newspapers. Journalists discovered that similar methods of dangerous chemical adulteration had been used to produce Chinese pet food for export, and many family dogs in America had suffered or died as a result. With heavy coverage on talk radio and cable news shows, phrases such as “Chinese baby formula” or “Chinese pet food” became angry slurs, and there was talk of banning whole categories of imports from a country whose product safety standards were obviously so far below those found in Western societies. The legitimate concerns of ordinary Americans were fanned by local media coverage that sometimes bordered on the hysterical.

However, the American media reaction had been quite different during an earlier health scandal much closer to home.

In September 2004, Merck, one of America’s largest pharmaceutical companies, suddenly announced that it was voluntarily recalling Vioxx, its popular anti-pain medication widely used to treat arthritis-related ailments. This abrupt recall came just days after Merck discovered that a top medical journal was about to publish a massive study by an FDA investigator indicating that the drug in question greatly increased the risk of fatal heart attacks and strokes and had probably been responsible for at least 55,000 American deaths during the five years it had been on the market.

Within weeks of the recall, journalists discovered that Merck had found strong evidence of the potentially fatal side-effects of this drug even before its initial 1999 introduction, but had ignored these worrisome indicators and avoided additional testing, while suppressing the concerns of its own scientists. Boosted by a television advertising budget averaging a hundred million dollars per year, Vioxx soon became one of Merck’s most lucrative products, generating over $2 billion in yearly revenue. Merck had also secretly ghostwritten dozens of the published research studies emphasizing the beneficial aspects of the drug and encouraging doctors to widely prescribe it, thus transforming science into marketing support. Twenty-five million Americans were eventually prescribed Vioxx as an aspirin-substitute thought to produce fewer complications.

Although the Vioxx scandal certainly did generate several days of newspaper headlines and intermittently returned to the front pages as the resulting lawsuits gradually moved through our judicial system, the coverage still seemed scanty relative to the number of estimated fatalities, which matched America’s total losses in the Vietnam War. In fact, the media coverage often seemed considerably less than that later accorded to the Chinese infant food scandal, which had caused just a handful of deaths on the other side of the world.

The circumstances of this case were exceptionally egregious, with many tens of thousands of American deaths due to the sale of a highly lucrative but sometimes fatal drug, whose harmful effects had long been known to its manufacturer. But there is no sign that criminal charges were ever considered.

A massive class-action lawsuit dragged its way through the courts for years, eventually being settled for $4.85 billion in 2007, with almost half the money going to the trial lawyers. Merck shareholders also paid large sums to settle various other lawsuits and government penalties and cover the heavy legal costs of fighting all of these cases. But the loss of continuing Vioxx sales represented the greatest financial penalty of all, which provides a disturbing insight into the cost-benefit calculations behind the company’s original cover-up. When the scandal broke, Merck’s stock price collapsed, and there was a widespread belief that the company could not possibly survive, especially after evidence of a deliberate corporate conspiracy surfaced. Instead, Merck’s stock price eventually reached new heights in 2008 and today is just 15 percent below where it stood just before the disaster.

Furthermore, individuals make decisions rather than corporate entities, and none of the individuals behind Merck’s deadly decisions apparently suffered any serious consequences. The year after the scandal unfolded, Merck’s long-time CEO resigned and was replaced by one of his top lieutenants, but he retained the $50 million in financial compensation he had received over the previous five years, compensation greatly boosted by lucrative Vioxx sales. Senior FDA officials apologized for their lack of effective oversight and promised to do better in the future. American media conglomerates quietly mourned their loss of heavy Vioxx advertising, but continued selling the same airtime to Merck and its rivals for the marketing of other, replacement drugs, while their investigative arms soon focused on the horrors of tainted Chinese infant food and the endemic corruption of Chinese society.

This story of serious corporate malfeasance largely forgiven and forgotten by government and media is depressing enough, but it leaves out a crucial factual detail that seems to have almost totally escaped public notice. The year after Vioxx had been pulled from the market, the New York Times and other major media outlets published a minor news item, generally buried near the bottom of their back pages, which noted that American death rates had suddenly undergone a striking and completely unexpected decline.

The headline of the short article that ran in the April 19, 2005 edition of USA Today was typical: “USA Records Largest Drop in Annual Deaths in at Least 60 Years.” During that one year, American deaths had fallen by 50,000 despite the growth in both the size and the age of the nation’s population. Government health experts were quoted as being greatly “surprised” and “scratching [their] heads” over this strange anomaly, which was led by a sharp drop in fatal heart attacks.

On April 24, 2005, the New York Times ran another of its long stories about the continuing Vioxx controversy, disclosing that Merck officials had knowingly concealed evidence that their drug greatly increased the risk of heart-related fatalities. But the Times journalist made no mention of the seemingly inexplicable drop in national mortality rates that had occurred once the drug was taken off the market, although the news had been reported in his own paper just a few days earlier.

A cursory examination of the most recent 15 years worth of national mortality data provided on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers some intriguing clues to this mystery. We find the largest rise in American mortality rates occurred in 1999, the year Vioxx was introduced, while the largest drop occurred in 2004, the year it was withdrawn. Vioxx was almost entirely marketed to the elderly, and these substantial changes in national death-rate were completely concentrated within the 65-plus population. The FDA studies had proven that use of Vioxx led to deaths from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, and these were exactly the factors driving the changes in national mortality rates.

The impact of these shifts was not small. After a decade of remaining roughly constant, the overall American death rate began a substantial decline in 2004, soon falling by approximately 5 percent, despite the continued aging of the population. This drop corresponds to roughly 100,000 fewer deaths per year. The age-adjusted decline in death rates was considerably greater.

Patterns of cause and effect cannot easily be proven. But if we hypothesize a direct connection between the recall of a class of very popular drugs proven to cause fatal heart attacks and other deadly illnesses with an immediate drop in the national rate of fatal heart attacks and other deadly illnesses, then the statistical implications are quite serious. Perhaps 500,000 or more premature American deaths may have resulted from Vioxx, a figure substantially larger than the 3,468 deaths of named individuals acknowledged by Merck during the settlement of its lawsuit. And almost no one among our political or media elites seems to know or care about this possibility. A recent Wall Street Journal column even called for relaxing FDA restrictions aimed at avoiding “rare adverse events,” which had been imposed after the discovery of “unanticipated side effects of high-profile drugs like Vioxx.”

There are obvious mitigating differences between these two national responses. The Chinese victims were children, and their sufferings from kidney stones and other ailments were directly linked to the harmful compounds that they had ingested. By contrast, the American victims were almost all elderly, and there was no means of determining whether a particular heart attack had been caused by Vioxx or other factors; the evidence implicating the drug was purely statistical, across millions of patients. Furthermore, since most of the victims were anyway nearing the end of their lives, the result was more an acceleration of the inevitable rather than cutting short an entire young life, and sudden fatal heart attacks are hardly the most unpleasant forms of death.

But against these important factors we must consider the raw numbers involved. American journalists seemed to focus more attention on a half-dozen fatalities in China than they did on the premature deaths of as many as 500,000 of their fellow American citizens.

The inescapable conclusion is that in today’s world and in the opinion of our own media, American lives are quite cheap, unlike those in China.


The Last Airbender (2010): correction

The Last Airbender (

The following email was sent to:

Dear Sir,
The link states: “The only central character to be portrayed as the same ethnicity as the cartoon was the film’s villain, Prince Zuko, played by the British-Indian Dev Patel.” Rather, Zuko is Chinese unless India has some dragon dance that I am unfamiliar with. The only Indian was an elderly mystic.
The present text reads:

The only central character to be portrayed by somebody of Asian descent was the film’s villain, Prince Zuko, played by the British-Indian Dev Patel.

Thanks to for their correction though one can argue that Indians are Afro-Caucasians and not Asians per se. I’m still trying to make sense of the logic that uses Indians and a Kiwi Māori (possibly European ancestry also?) to play Persians. Seems like director M. Night Shyamalan wanted some Indian affirmative action at the expense of East Asians.


Mandvi, Aasif. 2012. Whitewashing, a history: From “Tiffany’s” to “Khan,” we look at Hollywood’s illustrious tradition of casting white actors in non-white roles. [accessed: 2012-05-15].

WHO: Regional or Ethnic Differences in Erect Penis Size

The following email was sent weeks ago to the WHO through the link:

Hi, would like to know who thought it would be a good idea to compare erect ethnic penis sizes using two self-reported studies and one for Thailand which is not peer-reviewed? Also, which “major agencies” found that Asian countries prefer narrower condoms? Since the Kinsey study did not include condom size preference, which US study looked at this?

No reply to date.


I suspect this ‘data’ was influenced by Dr. John Paul Gerofi (PhD Electrical Engineering) who uses the same data here. Comically, the Thai study used measurements by multiple sex workers using paper tapes. One can only imagine how these sex workers were schooled in measurement methodology!


Gerofi. John. n.d. Condom Size. [accessed: 2012-06-01].

WHO. 1998. The Male Latex Condom: Specification & Guidelines for Condom Procurement. WHO & Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS. [accessed: 2012-01-23].

Penis size: Philippines

Penile size among adult Filipinos

Freddie Sy, Rodolfo C Ursua, Danilo C Gonzales, Emelia B Santamaria. Philippine Urological Association/Bicol Medical Center, Surgery – Section of Urology Bicol Medical Center, Naga City, The Philiippines

Problems of penile size among adult Filipinos have always been left unanswered since there is no existing data regarding the average or acceptable penile dimension. This study was designed to establish the penile size among adults Filipino. The specific objective is to determine the mean penile dimension in the flaccid and erect state and to determine if there is a correlation between anthropometric parameters such as height and weight to penile dimensions in the flaccid and erect states. Results showed a mean of 20 years, height of 167 cm and weight of 61 kg. The penile size measured 7.35 cm in flaccid length, 8.22 cm flaccid circumference, 12.61 cm erect length and 11.03 cm erect circumference. The Pearson’s Product Moment Correlation of Coefficient showed a very high significant correlation between height and erect length (0.3478) and between flaccid lengths and erect length (0.3769). These findings would then serve as a practical guide in counselling patients with penile size problems.

Source: Sy, et al. 2004. Penile size among adult Filipinos. International Journal of Urology 11 (Suppl.), A55 [] [PDF]

Note: Number of participants, methodology and standard deviation are unknown.

WorldPenisSize: analysis of listed sources

See Race Realism page for more.

Source listing: and


  • Standard deviation not considered
  • Some articles do not mention ethnicity of participants
  • Different methodologies used
  • Only sources for countries considered
  • Spelling errors in the source citations left intact

The following table shows the discrepancies between the data sources listed and the values presented.



Website data (in.)

Source data (in.)

Human Andrology: August 2011 – Volume 1 – Issue 2 – p 48–50  doi:10.1097/01.XHA. 0000399177. 60827.7e Original articles: Relationship between penile size and body measurements (Arabic countries) Nasar, Taha Abdl; Gadalla, Amr; Zeidan, Ashraf; El Batrawy, Mahmoud; Ghanem, Housen

Possibly Egypt

6.2 (Egypt)


Establishing a reference range for penile length in Caucasian British men: a prospective study of men (UK); Shahid Khan, Somani Bhaskar, Wayne Lam, Roland DonatArticle first published online: 28 JUN 2011  DOI: 10.1111/j.1464-410X.2011.10338.x © 2011 THE AUTHORS. BJU INTERNATIONAL © 2011 BJU INTERNATIONAL




Ponchietti R, Mondaini N, Bonafe M, Di Loro F, Biscioni S, Masieri L. Penile length and circumference: a study on 3, 300 young Italian males. (Italy) Eur Urol 2001; 39:183-6. (Italy)




Penile Length of average boys in Taiwan(…) (Taiwan)CHUNG-HSING WANG1, WEI-DE LIN2, DA-TIAN BAU2, CHANG-HAI TSAI1, DA-CHENG LIU1, FUU-JEN TSAI1


Is this about children or adults?

Male penis length average in sub-Saharan Africa, circumcision and relation to AIDS: a review[HTML] (Africa) van nih.govN Westercamp, RC Bailey – AIDS and Behavior, 2007 – Springe

Article does not exist, Westercamp & Bailey’s article is titled “Acceptability of Male Circumcision for Prevention of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review”

Size of external genital organs and somatometric parameters among physically normal men younger than 40 years old (Greece) Spyropoulos E, Borousas D, Mavrikos S, Dellis A, Bourounis M, Athanasiadis S.. Urology 2002; 60: 485-91.




Bogaert, A. F., & Hershberger, S. L. (1999). The relation between sexual orientation and penile size. (Central Europe) Archives of Sexual Behavior 28:213-221.(PMID:10410197)[9]

Central Europe

What does sexuality have to do with average national penile sizes? Article analyzes Kinsey’s data of Afro and Euro-Americans, not Central Europeans.

Penile measurements in normal adult Jordanians, (Jordan) Z Awwad, M Abu-Hijleh, S Basri… – International journal of …, 2004 –




JE Ferrer, JD Velez… – The journal of sexual …, 2010 – Online Library … Prevalence of erection in Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela (South America)

South America

Ferrer and Herrera’s article is entitled “Age-related morphological changes in smooth muscle and collagen content in human corpus cavernosum” and does not discuss (far less measure) penis lengths

Siminoski K and Bain J (1993) The Relationship Among Height, Penile Length, and Foot Size. Annals of Sex Research 6(3):231-235




Average Penile Length.. (Chile) AB Seabra… – J. Mater. Chem., 2009 – Universidad Católica de Valparaiso, Chile (1973–1975)

I am pretty sure the Journal of Material Chemistry does not discuss penises. Seabra’s article is “Nitric oxide-releasing vehicles for biomedical applications” and passingly states that nitric oxide is an erectile stimulator but does not give any measurements for Chileans

Male teenagers copulate earlier in the USA, Allan Mazur , Carolyn Halpern, J.Richard Udry Syracuse University, University of North Carolina, University of North Carolina. Received 14 June 1993; revised 26 January 1994; Available online 4 June 2002. Ethology and Sociobiology Volume 15, Issue 2, March 1994, Pages 87-94


Mazur’s article is entitled “Dominant looking male teenagers copulate earlier” and discusses “Dominance; Fitness; Coitus.” I doubt penis size is even mentioned.

van Driel, M. F., Weijmar Schultz, W. C. M., van de Wiel, H. B. M., & Mensink, H. J. A. (1998). Length of the penis. British Journal of Urology, 82, 81–85


Does not give any values but simply discusses surgical lengthening.

Penis size increase between flaccid and erect states: An analysis of the Kinsey data Journal of Sex Research Volume 24, Issue 1, 1998 DOI:10.1080/ 00224498809551408 Paul L. Jamisona & Paul H. Gebhardb, pages 177-183 Available online: 11 Jan 2010

USA (Europeans only)


6.21 (study is self-reported and known to be flawed)

Schneider, T., Sperling, H., Lummen, J., Syllwasschy, J., & Rubben, H. (2001). Does penile size in younger men cuase problems in condom use? A prospective measurement of penile dimensions in 111 young and 32 older men. Urology, 57, 314– 318



5.7 (younger data set), 5.6 (older data set)

Wessells, H; Lue, TF; McAninch, JW (1996). “Penile length in the flaccid and erect states: guidelines for penile augmentation”. The Journal of urology 156 (3): 995–7. doi:10.1016/S0022-5347(01)65682-9. PMID 8709382




Sengezer, M. Ozturk, S., & Deveci, M. (2002) Accurate method for determining functional penile length in Turkish young men. Annals of Plastic Surgery, 48, 381–385. Son, H., Lee, H., Huh, J., Kim, S. W., & Paick, J. (2003)




Studies on self-esteem of penile size in young Korean military men. Asian Journal of Andrology, 5, 185–189

South Korea


3.8 (does not include fat pad)

Schonfeld, William A. (April 1943). “Primary and secondary sexual characteristics: Study of their development in males from birth through maturity, with biometric study of penis and testes”. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 65 (4): 535–49. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1943.02010160019003 (inactive 2010-02-22).


No access to source

Khah, J; Christopher, N (2002). “Can shoe size predict penile length?”. BJU international 90 (6): 586–7. doi:10.1046/j.1464- 410X.2002.02974.x. PMID 12230622




Chen, J.; Gefen, A.; Greenstein, A.; Matzkin, H.; Elad, D. (2000). “Predicting penile size during erection”. International journal of impotence research 12 (6): 328–333. doi:10.1038/sj.ijir.3900627. PMID 11416836.




CONCLUSION: This site cannot be trusted to be consistent with naming sources and listing values.