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New Jersey court enters split verdict in long-term Vioxx use trial

[JURIST] A New Jersey state court jury on Wednesday rendered a split verdict after two days of deliberations in a joint trial [JURIST report] that pitted two state residents who took the painkiller Vioxx [Merck Vioxx Information Center website; JURIST news archive] against New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck [corporate website]. The jury found that Merck did not warn either of the men of potential dangers of heart attack and stroke [FDA public health advisory] associated with use of the drug, but awarded different amounts to each plaintiff. Finding that the drug significantly impacted 77-year-old John McDarby, who suffered a heart attack and deteriorating health from taking Vioxx, the jury awarded him $3 million and his wife $1.5 million. But the same jury found that the drug was not the only or main factor in Thomas Cona’s stroke and awarded him only $45 to repay him for his Vioxx expenditures.

On Thursday, the jury will hear evidence on whether the plaintiffs should receive punitive damages. A separate New Jersey jury found Merck not liable [JURIST report] in a Vioxx case last November, but this case is the first where the facts involved long-term use. Merck faces over 9,650 lawsuits in state and federal court over Vioxx. Merck lost a $253 million verdict [JURIST report] in the first Vioxx state claim in Texas, which is currently being reviewed on appeal. Merck was cleared of responsibility in the first federal trial [JURIST report; complaint] and another trial is currently underway [JURIST report] in Rio Grande City, Texas. AP has more.

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