Vioxx Warrior Promoted

The executive responsible for fighting thousands of lawsuits related to the prescription drug Vioxx has moved into the top ranks of pharmaceutical giant Merck. Kenneth Frazier, who served as general counsel for Merck, the New Jersey-based company, was recently appointed president and executive vice president of its Global Human Health division. The Harvard Law School graduate, who appeared on be’s America’s Top Black Lawyer’s list, joined Merck in 1992 and will now be responsible for managing a 30,000-employee unit that helps shape the marketing and sales strategies for new and existing products. “Every day at Merck, we are given unique opportunities to prevent or alleviate disease and to improve the quality of human life,” says Frazier. “The people of Global Human Health are central to achieving Merck’s mission because we serve as the primary link to customers-patients, physicians, public and private payers, and medical and scientific leaders. That is why I am very excited and especially honored to serve as the organization’s president.”

For the past eight years, Frazier has led the legal team in defending nearly 27,000 lawsuits related to Vioxx. Vioxx was used to treat arthritis, acute pain in adults, and painful menstrual cycles, but research shows that a major side effect is a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke if used long term. Merck, which has been dogged by the media, eventually pulled the one-time wonder drug off the shelf. Frazier is still working with his successor to resolve the lawsuits.

“Good lawyers are problem solvers,” says Melvin C. Breaux, an attorney who was a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath and mentored Frazier when, and has known him since, he was a summer associate at that law firm. “Given all of Ken’s superb qualities, I know that he will be successful in this new job. Intellectually he is super bright, he is extremely good at understanding people and assessing situations, and he has a huge amount of common sense.”

Rod Adkins has become Big Blue’s first black senior vice president, responsible for oversight of development and manufacturing for the IBM Systems and Technology Group. The 49-year-old tech innovator, who joined IBM in 1981, will manage more than 20,000 engineers and programmers in 16 countries.

In this new role, Adkins will create the product portfolio for all of IBM’s systems and technology, including partnerships with Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to build game consoles for Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo Wii. “IBM is a $90 billion enterprise,” he says. “We’ve been pretty consistent with our strategies. We think of things in terms of five to 10 years out.”

Bill Zeitler, senior vice president of IBM Systems and Technology Group, say Adkins’ technical capabilities, strategic mind, and leadership style make him perfectly suited for the job.

“Earlier in his career, he was responsible for the IBM ThinkPad, one of the most successful notebook brands,” Zeitler says. He notes Adkins’ capacity “not just to direct people, but to inspire. He reaches out