An Alabama judge delayed a trial of a lawsuit against Merck & Co. over the death of a man who took the drugmakerâe(TM)s now-withdrawn Vioxx painkiller.

Clay County Circuit Judge John E. Rochester today agreed to a request by a U.S. judge overseeing federal Vioxx litigation to push back the May 23 trial of Cheryl Rogersâe(TM)s suit. Rogers filed the wrongful-death suit, saying her husband took Vioxx for two weeks before suffering a fatal heart attack. The case was slated to be the first Vioxx suit to go to trial.

âeoeThe judge had been talking about resetting the case for January, but we donâe(TM)t know for sure when this will go to trial now,âe said Andy Birchfield, one of Rogersâe(TM)s lawyers. âeoeWeâe(TM)re looking forward to showing what Merckâe(TM)s drug did to people whenever we get the chance to do so.âe

Merck, the third-largest U.S. drugmaker, pulled Vioxx off the market last year after it was linked to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in some users. The company, which has set aside $675 million to defend itself from suits over the drug, is gearing up to face cases in Texas and New Jersey this summer.

A lawyer for Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck said the company was pleased that Rochester delayed the case to allow U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon in New Orleans to organize the cases heâe(TM)s overseeing.

The decision will help Fallon, âeoecoordinate pretrial activities and avoid duplication and inconsistencies in the judicial process,âe said Mike Brock, one of Merckâe(TM)s lawyers.

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