Merck & Co. won its second Vioxx trial in less than a week when an Alabama jury rejected the claims of a man who blamed the once-popular pain medication for his heart attack in 2001.
The jury deliberated for just 1 1/2 hours before reaching a defense verdict in a lawsuit filed by Gary Albright, 57. Two days earlier, a federal court jury in New Orleans ruled for Merck. In the 13 Vioxx trials to date, the company has won eight, lost four and had one other victory in which the judge ordered a retrial.
The company is sticking to its plan of defending each of thousands of claims over Vioxx rather than settling the lawsuits.
“Our litigation strategy is steady as she goes,” said Vioxx spokesman Kent Jarrell.
Albright’s lawyers had asked for $5.75 million, but jurors rejected the plaintiff’s claims that Vioxx caused his heart attack and that the company failed to warn the public of potential risks associated with the popular painkiller.
After the trial, jurors told The Associated Press that Albright hail too many health problems before his heart attack to blame Vioxx.
Merck attorney Mike Brock told jurors that Albright had only a “small heart attack that didn’t cause lasting damage to his lifestyle. Albright was at high risk for heart problems because he had diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and was overweight, he said.
In the New Orleans trial, a federal jury rejected a Tennessee man’s claim that Vioxx caused his heart attack.
Anthony Dedrick, 50, was seeking $200,000 in damages.
Merck Lawyer Phil Beck attacked Dedrick’s Creditability, nothing five worthless-check convictions and allegations that Dedrick lied under oath at a disability hearing. Beck questioned whether Dedrick was telling the truth when he said he continued taking vioxx even after being prescribed a narcotic painkiller.
Dedrick’s lawyer, Andy Birchfield, anticipated, and sought to counter, arguments from Merck about Dedrick’s past, acknowledging Dedrick had a criminal history and had used cocaine. That information was irrelevant, he told jurors.
He acknowledged in his closing statement that Dedrick had other risk factors for his heart attack, including tobacco use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and cocaine use. However, he said, Vioxx was also a risk factor and that Merck failed to adequately warn doctors about the risk.
Merck said earlier this week that it faces about 27,200 personal injury lawsuits over Vioxx, plus 265 potential class action lawsuits.
Suits by more than 3,000 plaintiffs’ groups have been dismissed, although about two- thirds of those may be refilled later.