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Mechanisms of regulatory capture: Testing claims of industry influence in the case of Vioxx

Posted on 2 June 2023

New article by Dr Eva Heims and Dr Sophie Moxon

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Dr Eva Heims has a new article she has co-authored alongside Dr Sophie Moxon which has been published in the online journal Regulation and Governance.

The article: "Mechanisms of regulatory capture: Testing claims of industry influence in the case of Vioxx" was first published on 30th May 2023.


This paper presents a systematic empirical study of the causal mechanisms of regulatory capture. It applies process-tracing methods to the Vioxx drug scandal that was widely regarded to be a result of capture. In doing so, this paper provides a robust empirical analysis of regulatory capture lacking in the current literature. The analysis focuses on the role of the UK drug regulator in licensing and monitoring a drug that caused hundreds of thousands of heart attacks before it was taken off the market in 2004. We develop and systemically operationalize three causal mechanisms of capture to study the evidence on regulatory decision-making on Vioxx. Through explicit theoretical and empirical evaluation of the evidence, we show that the degree of capture through the revolving door, information overload and shared cultural frameworks was limited. By opening the black-box of empirical capture research, the paper highlights the problematic consequences of (mis-)diagnosis of regulatory capture by scholars, the media, and policymakers.