Merck & Co. Inc. rushed the painkiller Vioxx to market despite knowing its potential health dangers, an attorney said on Monday in opening arguments of the latest lawsuit charging that the popular drug caused someone to die.

Merck’s lawyer countered that heart disease, not Vioxx, killed Richard Irvin, a 53-year-old Floridian who died in 2001 after taking the drug for less than a month.

The arguments came in the retrial of a case that ended in a mistrial in December when one member of a nine-person jury felt Merck was liable for the death and a unanimous verdict could not be reached.

More than 9,000 lawsuits have been filed against Merck claiming it hid health risks linked to Vioxx.

The company recalled Vioxx, which had been popular with arthritis sufferers, in September 2004 after it was shown to double heart attack and stroke risks for those who took it at least 18 months.

Andy Birchfield, an attorney for Irvin’s family, told the New Orleans jury that Merck knew from clinical trials the dangers of Vioxx, but wanted to beat its competitors to market with the painkiller.

“Merck ignored the early warning signs and they pushed forward with this drug,” he said. “They played fast and loose with the science.”

But Merck lawyer Philip Beck disagreed.

“Merck acted responsibly with it developed and tested Vioxx. Vioxx had nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Irvin’s death,” he said.

Irvin, he said, died because he had blocked arteries, which led to a fatal heart attack.

This case is the first of the Vioxx lawsuits to be tried in federal court. It was originally tried in Houston after Hurricane Katrina temporarily closed the federal courts in New Orleans.

Two others cases have been completed in state courts, with Merck winning one in New Jersey and losing one in Texas, where the widow of a 59-year-old Vioxx user was awarded $253 million in damages. Merck is appealing.

Analysts have said the company’s legal costs to fight the lawsuits could total several billions of dollars.

We're here to help!

We live by our creed of "helping those who need it most" and have helped thousands of clients get the justice they desperately needed and deserved. If you feel you have a case or just have questions please contact us for a free consultation. There is no risk and no fees unless we win for you.

Fields marked    may be required for submission.
  1. I'm an attorney

Merck to pay $830 million to settle investors’ Vioxx...

Merck announced Friday it will pay $830 million to settle investor complaints accusing it of committing...

Merck to pay nearly $1 billion for illegal marketing...

American pharmaceutical company Merck, Sharp & Dohme has agreed to pay $950 million to resolve criminal...

Merck paying more than 3,100 vioxx death claims

Merck & Co. is paying claims by the families of more than 3,100 users of its Vioxx painkiller who...

Settlement limits insurers' claims in Vioxx deal

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Former Vioxx users getting part of a $4.85 billion settlement ending most personal...

Persistence pays in Vioxx litigation

Plaintiffs get close to $5B, but Merck could have done a lot worse. Attorneys who spent nearly one year...

Merck to fund Vioxx settlement in August

Merck & Co. will start cutting checks for former users of its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx next month...

Thank you for all your hard work

Thank you for all your hard work over the past years on my behalf and so many others. God bless you all.