Two grown children of a man who died after taking Vioxx for less than a month testified in federal court here that their father was healthy, active and showed no signs of heart problems before his death in 2001.

Leslie Irvin Goldstein and Richard Irvin said their father, Richard “Dicky” Irvin, was an involved family man who worked six days a week in a physically intense job at a seafood-distribution company.

In the first Vioxx case to go to trial in a federal court—the third case so far—Evelyn Irvin Plunkett is suing Merck & Co., the drug’s maker, alleging that Vioxx caused her husband’s May 2001 heart attack. Mr. Irvin took Vioxx for less than a month for back and hip pain.

Merck voluntarily withdrew Vioxx from the market last year after a study linked the drug to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients taking the drug for 18 months or longer. The Whitehouse Station, N.J., company says there are no conclusive studies that show Vioxx can cause adverse cardiovascular events when taken in the short term.

Merck lost the first state Vioxx case in September when a Texas jury awarded $253.4 million to the widow of a man who took the drug for eight months. The award will likely be cut to about $26 million under state damage caps. In November, Merck won a case in a New Jersey state court.

In that case, the plaintiff survived a heart attack he suffered after taking the drug intermittently for two months.

Earlier Wednesday, a pathologist testifying on behalf of the plaintiff said Vioxx played a contributing role in Mr. Irvin’s death. Colin Bloor, a pathologist at the University of California, San Diego, told jurors that Mr. Irvin, who was 53 when he died, was healthy at the time of his heart attack, and that his death was caused by a sudden blood clot in one of his arteries.

Merck defense attorney Philip S. Beck challenged Dr. Bloor by pointing out inconsistencies in the doctor’s expert-witness report and his testimony on the stand. He said the report had no mention of Vioxx as a cause of Mr. Irvin’s heart attack.

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