[JURIST] A jury on Tuesday awarded $9 million in punitive damages to a New Jersey man who sued pharmaceutical giant Merck [corporate website] on grounds that his prolonged use of the drug Vioxx [Merck Vioxx Information Center website; JURIST news archive] caused him to suffer a heart attack, marking the first suit involving facts of long-term use [JURIST report]. John McDarby took the pain reliever for four years until his heart attack in 2004. Last week, the jury found that Merck knowingly withheld information [JURIST report] from federal regulators by not immediately reporting initial findings that prolonged use of the drug was associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Merck withdrew the drug after a 2004 study indicated that continued use of Vioxx for longer than 18 months could double a patient's risk of heart attack.
McDarby was also awarded $4.5 million last week after the same jury found that Merck also failed to warn doctors and patients of potential dangers of heart attack and stroke [FDA public health advisory] associated with the use of Vioxx. These were the first punitive damages against a pharmaceutical company under New Jersey's 1995 Product Liability Act. Merck currently faces close to 10,000 Vioxx-related lawsuits in federal and state courts. Bloomberg has more.