Merck wins latest Vioxx case
N.J. jury finds drugmaker not liable in the seventh case over withdrawn painkiller.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Merck was found not liable in the seventh lawsuit over Vioxx, the arthritis painkiller that it pulled from the market because of heart attack risk, the company announced Thursday.
The jury of five men and two women found Vioxx was not a substantial factor in the heart attack of a 68-year-old New Jersey woman, a court clerk said. The trial was held at New Jersey Superior Court in Atlantic City.
The jury decided that although Merck failed to warn the plaintiff, Elaine Doherty, about the heart risks of taking Vioxx, it did adequately warn her doctor of such risks, the clerk said.
The panel also found that Merck did not commit consumer fraud or misrepresent Vioxx in marketing the drug to physicians or to the plaintiff, the clerk said.
Jim Fitzpatrick, an outside counsel for Merck, said in a press conference that the verdict "reiterates our strategy to defend these cases on an individual basis."
Michael Galpern, attorney for Doherty, told CNNMoney.com that he had not decided whether to appeal, but his firm is representing more than 500 plaintiffs in upcoming Vioxx cases.
"This was actually a major victory for plaintiffs across the country as this was the first time that the jury was asked if Merck failed to warn the patients about the dangers of Vioxx and the answer was yes by a unanimous verdict," said Galpern. "Unfortunately they found that Vioxx did not cause Mrs. Doherty's heart attacks, and we are disappointed with that one."
The anti-inflammatory drug was pulled off the market on Sept. 30, 2004. Doherty, who took Vioxx for three years, blamed Vioxx for the heart attack she suffered in 2004, and she accused Merck of concealing information about the drug.
At least 11,500 lawsuits have been filed against Merck by former Vioxx patients and, in cases alleging wrongful death, by their surviving members. Merck has vowed not to settle and to fight the cases one by one.
Another trial is ongoing in Los Angeles Superior Court, where plaintiff Stewart Grossberg has sued Merck, blaming Vioxx for his heart attack. Merck said the next trial will begin at the end of July in U.S. district court in New Orleans, as one of thousands of cases that have been consolidated in federal court. The next case after that is scheduled to begin on Sept. 11 in New Jersey Superior Court.
Merck stock pared its losses after the verdict and was down about 0.4 percent in late afternoon trading.
Related: Merck and the Vioxx rut