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Jury awards $4.5 mln in Vioxx verdict against Merck
Wed Apr 5, 2006 6:39 PM ET6
 

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ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - Jurors in Merck & Co.'s Vioxx trial awarded $4.5 million on Wednesday to a 77-year-old New Jersey man after finding the painkiller contributed to his heart attack, casting doubts on the strategy Merck will use in thousands of other suits over the drug.

The jury also found that the drug company failed to provide warning of increased cardiovascular risk for plaintiffs John McDarby and Thomas Cona, both of whom blamed Vioxx for their heart attacks. The drug did not contribute to Cona's heart attack, the jury found.

McDarby and his wife were awarded $4.5 million in total, while Cona will receive $45 to cover losses related to Merck's misrepresentation of Vioxx to his doctors.

The 8-person jury also found that Merck, which withdrew the painkiller in the fall of 2004 after it was linked to increased risk of heart attacks in patients who took it for more than 18 months, did not commit fraud in marketing Vioxx to either plaintiff.

The New Jersey state trial was the first involving plaintiffs who used Vioxx for 18 months or more.

"There's no way that (Merck) is going to continue to pursue this strategy of trying every case," Sherwood Small, a fund manager with Boston Private Value, said after the decision.

"It would be foolhardy and very expensive. This (split verdict) doesn't put Merck in a great position," Small said.

In previous trials, Merck was able to argue that there was no evidence of increased heart risk associated with short-term use of the pain medicine. Because Cona, 60, and McDarby were both long-term Vioxx users, this trial has been particularly closely watched for indications of how future cases might play out.

Merck voluntarily pulled the $2.5 billion a year drug from the market in September 2004 after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke among people who used it for at least 18 months.

Since then, the drugmaker has been hit with nearly 10,000 Vioxx-related lawsuits.



© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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