NEW ORLEANS- The maker of the painkiller Vioxx says a federal judge did a jury’s job when he proposed a $1.6 million award to replace the $51 million judgment he said was excessive.

Merck wants a new trial for a retired FBI agent from South Carolina who won a lawsuit claiming Vioxx caused his heart attack. Merck Friday is asking for a new trial in the case of Gerald Barnett of Myrtle Beach.

Jurors in Barnett’s case said he should get $50 million for injuries from the heart attack and one million dollars in punitive damages against Merck. The judge said the compensatory damages were unreasonable, since Barnett is retired and recovered well.

Barnett had asked the judge to suggest a more reasonable award, as an alternative to a new trial on damages.

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