Opening Arguments begin in Vioxx Trial

posted on:
August 2, 2006

author:
Staff

NEW ORLEANS – The second federal plaintiff to claim that the painkiller Vioxx caused a heart attack was a fit retired FBI agent who watched his diet, exercised regularly and was a model patient, his lawyer says.

Barnett, 62, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., is among thousands of plaintiffs claiming that the drug, which was bringing in $2.5 billion a year for Merck at its height, caused a heart attack, and that Merck hid its dangers.

Robinson said that, during his 27 years as an FBI agent, “Jerry always met stringent FBI physical requirements.” Even after retirement he worked out daily, running and lifting weights, and kept his diet healthy, Robinson said.

Barnett’s fathers first heart attack was at the age of 55, three years earlier than Barnett’s, Beck said. He said the plaque in Barnett’s arteries had been gathering for decades.

“Their marketing campaign was not just across the country. It touched Mr. Barnett’s case,” Robinson said.

McCaffrey prescribed was Vioxx, the attorney said.

He said McCaffrey saw Barnett only four times, but one of his regular doctors, Dr. Michael Mikolajczyk (mik-OH-luh), was married to a Vioxx sales representative and himself received speaker fees from Merck.

He said Mobic, the drug to which Barnett switched after going off Vioxx, and Feldene, the painkiller he took for the 15 years before Vioxx, both had “a big fat ugly warning” about the risk the same kind of warning Robinson said Vioxx should have carried.

And, he said, though Barnett’s attorneys have said they plan to spend days on testimony about Merck’s marketing for Vioxx, “these doctors weren’t exposed to almost all these marketing materials … and weren’t influenced by them.”

Merck faces more than 16,000 lawsuits involving Vioxx. Barnett’s is the ninth to go to trial. Merck won the first federal suit, brought by the family of a man who died of a heart attack after less than a month on Vioxx.

One state case is still in court. Merck has lost three, brought by one severely incapacitated plaintiff and the families of two people who died, and has won the other four.

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