You know that FDA panel recommendation that Rich keeps talking about? It was a 17-15 vote -- hardly a rousing endorsement of Vioxx's safety. Furthermore, even if Vioxx returns to the market, how eager do you think doctors are going to be to prescribe it -- or patients to take it?

Oh, and another thing. That argument about how a return to the market will reduce the likelihood that Merck (NYSE:MRK) will have to pay Vioxx claims? Try telling that to Lilly (NYSE:LLY) -- which just shelled out $300 million to settle Zyprexa claims related to side effects that were on the label! Not only did Lilly warn people about the risk but also the drug never left the market, and the company had to pay up anyway. So, in my view, suggesting that a return to market will somehow shield Merck from litigation is starry-eyed at best.

And notice how Rich didn't say anything about the weak pipeline or the low future growth rates? Yeah, I did, too.

Unless it engages in M&A activities (something Merck historically doesn't do), a pharmaceutical company is no stronger than its pipeline. Weak pipeline, weak prospects. And Merck's late-stage pipeline is quite weak indeed.

And last but not least, we again hear the canary approach to investing -- cheap! cheap! Yes, Merck trades at 13 times trailing earnings -- one of the lowest in the group. But when you look at forward earnings multiples, Merck is right there again at 13 (like I said, no growth) -- on par with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Sanofi Aventis (NYSE:SNY). And don't forget -- Pfizer and Sanofi have much better prospects and pipelines than Merck does.

Want to read the opposing viewpoint? Check out Rich Smith's original argument. Also read Stephen Simpson's original argument , as well as Rich Smith's rebuttal . Merck is an active stock recommendation in our Income Investor newsletter service. Check outthe latest dealfor new subscribers. Motley Fool Inside Valuehas recommended Pfizer.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson owns shares of Sanofi Aventis. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.