The Alabama lawyer due to argue the nation’s next Vioxx-related case before a federal judge lashed out at drugmaker Merck & Co. on Monday for trying to have the case thrown out.

Jere Beasley of Montgomery represents the plaintiff in the wrongful-death suit scheduled for Nov. 29 in a Houston federal court. The family of Robert Irvin Jr. claims Vioxx triggered a fatal heart attack in the 53-year-old seafood company manager after he took the painkiller for a month.

Merck has filed a motion asking to have the case thrown out of court since studies have shown the drug put patients at increased heart risk after more than 18 months of use, but not shorter time periods. Beasley said he has gathered evidence related to show the “18-month use claim is totally false.”

The federal judge in Houston has yet to rule on Merck’s motion to dismiss, said Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for the company’s defense team.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., has released its own studies that show Vioxx doubles the risk of heart attacks and strokes in some patients after use for 18 months or longer; it recalled the pain medication from the market in 2004 for that reason.

Though it was hit with a $253 million verdict against it in August, Merck said it was feeling confident in its defense after a New Jersey state court jury in October found the drugmaker was not liable for the non-fatal heart attack suffered by an Idaho postal worker who used Vioxx.

Before these first two Vioxx cases were heard, Beasley had been scheduled to bring the nation’s first Vioxx case forward in the Clay County courtroom of Circuit Judge John Rochester. It involved widow Cheryl Rogers, who claims Vioxx contributed to her husband’s fatal heart attack in 2001.

In April, Rochester delayed the Rogers case for more than seven months at the request of U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon, who sought to better organize many of the Vioxx lawsuits. The Clay County case is still set to be heard in January or February, Rochester said.

Beasley was due to argue the Irvin case before Fallon’s court in New Orleans, but the case has been moved to Houston – along with Fallon and his court staff – because of jury selection problems in Katrina-damaged New Orleans.

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