U.S. Vioxx case retrial set for Feb. 6

posted on:
December 16, 2005

Bill Berkrot

NEW YORK, Dec 16 (Reuters) -The first federal trial against Merck & Co and its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, which ended in a mistrial earlier this week, will be retried on February 6 in New Orleans, representatives of both sides said on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon set the date and venue in a meeting with the two sides.

The trial, held in Houston because of hurricane damage to New Orleans where Fallon is based, was declared a mistrial on Monday after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

It was later disclosed that one member of the nine-member jury believed that Merck was responsible for the 2001 fatal heart attack of a Florida man who had only taken Vioxx for less than a month. The other eight had sided with Merck.

"The family is not in any way going to back down," said Jere Beasley, a partner at the law firm representing the family of Richard Irvin.

Merck had said it hoped for a February retrial of the federal case. Two state trials have resulted in one win for the company, and one for the plaintiff.

"We are more than happy to retry that case, and when the gavel goes down to start that trial we will be ready to go," Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Merck’s defense team, told Reuters.

Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after a study showed the arthritis medicine doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in people who used the drug for at least 18 months.

The New Jersey-based drug maker has since been hit with more than 7,000 lawsuits from people who claim to have been harmed Vioxx.

Merck had vowed to defend itself in each case.

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