The
1,000 IDEAS
e-Book

Breaking News English

HOME  |   DONATE  |  000s MORE FREE LESSONS
 
 

 

E-mail this lesson to someone who would like to use it in classroom or study with it.

Follow this site on Facebook.

 

000's more free lessons.

   

 


 
 

Date: Aug 21, 2005

Level: Easier (Try the harder lesson.)

Downloads: Word Doc | PDF Doc | Listening

Audio: (2:21 - 277.4 KB - 16kbps)
1,000 IDEAS FOR ESL CLASSES: Breaking News English.com's e-Book

THE ARTICLE

US drug giant Merck and Co. has lost the first of over 4,000 lawsuits brought against it because of its painkiller Vioxx. A Texas jury awarded $253 million to the widow of a man who died from cardiac arrest after taking the drug. The payment to Carol Ernst included $229 million in damages for negligence and other factors. Merck took its best-selling drug off the market last September. Laboratory tests showed it could double the risk of heart attacks. Thousands of people around the world will now sue Merck for wrongful death and injury.

This court case raises serious questions for Merck, whose future is now uncertain. It could have to pay up to $18 billion in damages. Losing the Ernst case is a bad omen for the company. The link between Mr. Ernst’s death and the painkiller was reportedly quite weak. A Merck lawyer, Jonathan Skidmore, said: “We believe that the plaintiff did not meet the standard set by Texas law to prove Vioxx caused Ernst’s death.” A second trial is scheduled to start next month in New Jersey concerning a man who had a heart attack in 2001.

WARM-UPS

1. MEDICINE: Talk to your partner(s) about your history of taking medicine. Did you like taking medicine as a child? Do you often take medicine now? Try to think of all the causes and reasons why you have taken medicine.

2. ILLNESS: In pairs / groups, talk about whether or how often you have had any of the following. What treatment or medicine did you take / receive?

  • Heart problems
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Fever
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Bee stings and insect bites
  • Allergies
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Burns

3. CHAT: In pairs / groups, decide which of these topics or words are most interesting and which are most boring.

Drug giants / drugs / lawsuits / painkillers / pain / damages / negligence / cardiac arrest / wrongful death / bad omens / lawyers / trials

Have a chat about the topics you liked. For more conversation, change topics and partners frequently.

4. JURY: Spend one minute writing down all of the different words you associate with the word “jury”. Share your words with your partner(s) and talk about them. Together, put the words into different categories.

5. OPINIONS: Talk about these opinions with your partner(s). Do you agree or disagree with them?

  1. Drug companies are more interested in profits than people.
  2. Drug companies are dangerous – they hide many secrets about their drugs.
  3. Drug companies save millions of lives.
  4. The pharmaceutical industry is the most important in the world.
  5. Drug companies should do more to help the developing world.
  6. Drugs and medicines are too expensive.
  7. Many drugs do not work.
  8. Drug companies help to increase world overpopulation.
  9. Governments should give money to help drug companies find new medicines.
  10. Drug companies have too much political power.

6. QUICK DEBATE: Students A think the pharmaceutical industry is the most important industry in the world. Students B think not. Change partners often.


 
 

BEFORE READING / LISTENING

1. TRUE / FALSE: Look at the article’s headline and guess whether these sentences are true (T) or false (F):

a.

A drug giant has lost the first of 4,000 lawsuits filed against it.

T / F

b.

A man died of a heart attack after taking the company’s drugs.

T / F

c.

The company has refused to withdraw its drug from the market.

T / F

d.

The drug is reported to double the risk of heart attack.

T / F

e.

The drug giant is in danger of going out of business.

T / F

f.

The company believes it is surrounded by bad omens.

T / F

g.

There was a very strong link between the man’s death and the drug.

T / F

h.

Hundreds of new trials will start against the country next month.

T / F

2. SYNONYM MATCH: Match the following synonyms from the article:

a.

drug

as much as

b.

lawsuits

carelessness

c.

cardiac arrest

defendant

d.

negligence

poses

e.

wrongful

court cases

f.

raises

connection

g.

up to

pharmaceutical

h.

link

regarding

i.

plaintiff

unjust

j.

concerning

heart attack

3. PHRASE MATCH: Match the following phrases from the article (sometimes more than one combination is possible):

a.

Merck and Co. has lost

of heart attacks

b.

A Texas jury awarded

damages for negligence

c.

died from cardiac

$253 million to the widow

d.

$229 million in

death and the painkiller

e.

double the risk

to $18 billion in damages

f.

whose future

set by Texas law

g.

could have to pay up

the first of over 4,000 lawsuits

h.

The link between Mr. Ernst’s

scheduled to start next month

i.

did not meet the standard

arrest after taking the drug

j.

A second trial is

is now uncertain

WHILE READING / LISTENING

GAP FILL: Put the words in the column on the right into the gaps in the text.

Drug giant Merck loses negligence case

US drug _______ Merck and Co. has lost the first of over 4,000 lawsuits brought against it because of its _______ Vioxx. A Texas jury awarded $253 million to the _______ of a man who died from cardiac arrest after taking the drug. The _______ to Carol Ernst included $229 million in damages for negligence and other _______. Merck took its best-selling drug off the _______ last September. Laboratory tests showed it could _______ the risk of heart attacks. Thousands of people around the world will now _______ Merck for wrongful death and injury.

 

 

double
payment
painkiller
sue
widow
factors
giant
market

This court case raises serious _______ for Merck, whose future is now _______. It could have to pay up to $18 billion in damages. Losing the Ernst case is a bad _______ for the company. The _______ between Mr. Ernst’s death and the painkiller was reportedly quite _______. A Merck lawyer, Jonathan Skidmore, said: “We believe that the plaintiff did not meet the standard set by Texas law to _______ Vioxx caused Ernst’s death.” A second _______ is scheduled to start next month in New Jersey _______ a man who had a heart attack in 2001.

 

 

trial
link
uncertain
weak
concerning
questions
prove
omen


 
 

AFTER READING / LISTENING

1. WORD SEARCH: Look in your dictionaries / computer to find collocates, other meanings, information, synonyms … for the words ‘pain’ and ‘killer’.

  • Share your findings with your partners.
  • Make questions using the words you found.
  • Ask your partner / group your questions.

2. ARTICLE QUESTIONS: Look back at the article and write down some questions you would like to ask the class about the text.

  • Share your questions with other classmates / groups.
  • Ask your partner / group your questions.

3. GAP FILL: In pairs / groups, compare your answers to this exercise. Check your answers. Talk about the words from the gap fill. Were they new, interesting, worth learning…?

4. VOCABULARY: Circle any words you do not understand. In groups, pool unknown words and use dictionaries to find their meanings.

5. STUDENT “PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY” SURVEY: In pairs / groups, write down questions about pharmaceutical companies and drugs.

  • Ask other classmates your questions and note down their answers.
  • Go back to your original partner / group and compare your findings.
  • Make mini-presentations to other groups on your findings.

6. TEST EACH OTHER: Look at the words below. With your partner, try to recall exactly how these were used in the text:

  • lost
  • widow
  • payment
  • best-selling
  • double
  • wrongful
  • questions
  • omen
  • weak
  • plaintiff
  • prove
  • scheduled

DISCUSSION

STUDENT A’s QUESTIONS (Do not show these to student B)

  1. What did you think when you first read this headline?
  2. Did the headline make you want to read the article?
  3. What do you think of Merck losing this trial?
  4. Do you think drug companies often escape in court cases?
  5. Is $253 million the right amount of damages?
  6. Has Merck accepted its drug is dangerous by withdrawing it from the market last year?
  7. Should there be stricter safety controls on drug companies?
  8. Do you think drug companies care more about profits than people?
  9. Do you think Mrs. Ernst is satisfied with the jury’s decision?
  10. Have you suffered any side effects from taking drugs?

STUDENT B’s QUESTIONS (Do not show these to student A)

  1. Did you like reading this article?
  2. What do you think about what you read?
  3. The payment included damages for negligence. What do you think this means?
  4. Do you think Merck will survive the lawsuits around the world?
  5. Is there a message for other drug companies?
  6. Do you think drug companies will now start testing their products more carefully?
  7. Do you think drug companies should do more to help the developing world?
  8. Would you take drugs made by Merck?
  9. Do you worry about the safety of medicines you take?
  10. Did you like this discussion?

AFTER DISCUSSION: Join another partner / group and tell them what you talked about.

  1. What question would you like to ask about this topic?
  2. What was the most interesting thing you heard?
  3. Was there a question you didn’t like?
  4. Was there something you totally disagreed with?
  5. What did you like talking about?
  6. Do you want to know how anyone else answered the questions?
  7. Which was the most difficult question?

SPEAKING

ROLE PLAY: This role play is to discuss whether or not Merck should pay damages to everyone who has filed a lawsuit against it. Team up with classmates who have the same role as you. Develop your roles and discuss ideas and “strategies” before the role play begins.

Introduce yourself to the other role players.

Role A – Merck Boss

You do not accept the links between your painkiller and heart attacks. Your researchers have found no link. Other studies have many problems. The Ernst court case was unfair, It did not look at all of the facts. Vioxx is a wonderful and safe drug.

THINK OF MORE REASONS WHY MERCK SHOULD NOT PAY.
 

Role B – Heart attack victim

You have never been ill in your life. You regularly run marathons. You took Vioxx for pain in your hands. A month later you had a heart attack. You are sure it is because of Vioxx. You want damages. You can no longer run and now have many heart problems.

THINK OF MORE REASONS WHY MERCK SHOULD PAY YOU.
 

Role C – Watchdog

You have information that many drug companies lie and cover up the truth to protect their image. They are more interested in profits. They pay political parties lots of money to protect their industry. Merck knew of the risks of Vioxx but never expected to be sued. You think Merck should go bankrupt as an example to other companies.

THINK OF MORE REASONS WHY MERCK IS BAD.
 

Role D – Patient

Merck has greatly improved your life. The product Vioxx has totally made the pain you suffered for many years completely disappear. You have never suffered any heart problems. You think many people have decided to copy each other and try to get money from Merck unfairly.

THINK OF MORE REASONS WHY MERCK IS A GOOD COMPANY.
 

Change roles and repeat the role play. Comment in groups about the differences between the two role plays.

In pairs / groups, discuss whether you really believe in what you said while you were in your roles.

LISTENING

Listen and fill in the spaces.

Drug giant Merck loses negligence case

US drug giant Merck and Co. has ______ the first of over 4,000 lawsuits brought against it because of its painkiller Vioxx. A Texas ______ awarded $253 million to the ______ of a man who died from cardiac arrest after taking the drug. The payment to Carol Ernst included $229 million in damages for negligence and other ______. Merck took its best-selling drug off the ______ last September. Laboratory tests showed it could ______ the risk of heart attacks. Thousands of people around the world will now sue Merck for wrongful death and ______.

This court case ______ serious questions for Merck, whose future is now uncertain. It could have to ____ ___ ___ $18 billion in damages. Losing the Ernst case is a bad ______ for the company. The link between Mr. Ernst’s death and the painkiller was reportedly quite ______. A Merck lawyer, Jonathan Skidmore, said: “We believe that the plaintiff did not meet the standard set by Texas law to ______ Vioxx caused Ernst’s death.” A second trial is scheduled to start next month in New Jersey ___________ a man who had a heart attack in 2001.

HOMEWORK

1. VOCABULARY EXTENSION: Choose several of the words from the text. Use a dictionary or Google’s search field (or another search engine) to build up more associations / collocations of each word.

2. INTERNET: Search the Internet and find more information on the pharmaceutical giant Merck. Share your findings with your class in the next lesson.

3. LETTER: Write a letter to the boss of Merck. Tell him / her what you think of the court decision. What do you think the company should do from now? Read your letters to your classmates in your next lesson. Did you all write about similar things?

4. MEDICINE: Create a poster comparing pharmaceutical medicines with other kinds of medicines and treatments, such as traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, acupuncture, etc. Did you all write about similar things?

ANSWERS

TRUE / FALSE:

a. T

b. T

c. F

d. T

e. T

f. F

g. F

h. F

SYNONYM MATCH:

a.

drug

pharmaceutical

b.

lawsuits

court cases

c.

cardiac arrest

heart attacks

d.

negligence

carelessness

e.

wrongful

unjust

f.

raises

poses

g.

up to

as much as

h.

link

connection

i.

plaintiff

defendant

j.

concerning

regarding

PHRASE MATCH:

a.

Merck and Co. has lost

the first of over 4,000 lawsuits

b.

A Texas jury awarded

$253 million to the widow

c.

died from cardiac

arrest after taking the drug

d.

$229 million in

damages for negligence

e.

double the risk

of heart attacks

f.

whose future

is now uncertain

g.

could have to pay up

to $18 billion in damages

h.

The link between Mr. Ernst’s

death and the painkiller

i.

did not meet the standard

set by Texas law

j.

A second trial is

scheduled to start next month

GAP FILL:

Drug giant Merck loses negligence case

US drug giant Merck and Co. has lost the first of over 4,000 lawsuits brought against it because of its painkiller Vioxx. A Texas jury awarded $253 million to the widow of a man who died from cardiac arrest after taking the drug. The payment to Carol Ernst included $229 million in damages for negligence and other factors. Merck took its best-selling drug off the market last September. Laboratory tests showed it could double the risk of heart attacks. Thousands of people around the world will now sue Merck for wrongful death and injury.

This court case raises serious questions for Merck, whose future is now uncertain. It could have to pay up to $18 billion in damages. Losing the Ernst case is a bad omen for the company. The link between Mr. Ernst’s death and the painkiller was reportedly quite weak. A Merck lawyer, Jonathan Skidmore, said: “We believe that the plaintiff did not meet the standard set by Texas law to prove Vioxx caused Ernst’s death.” A second trial is scheduled to start next month in New Jersey concerning a man who had a heart attack in 2001.

TOP



 
 


 
 

Copyright © 2004-2005 by Sean Banville | Links | About | Privacy Policy