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Merck wins fourth Vioxx trial in New Jersey court

[JURIST] A New Jersey state jury in Atlantic City found Merck [corporate website] not liable Thursday for a woman's heart attack, saying that Merck adequately warned doctors [Merck press release] of the health risks from the company's painkiller Vioxx [Merck Vioxx Information Center website; JURIST news archive]. In what was the seventh Vioxx trial to reach a verdict, the jury also found that Merck did not use "unconscionable commercial products" to defraud customers by deliberately misleading doctors about Vioxx's health risks. Elaine Doherty's case marks the first case to consider whether Merck failed to warn Doherty herself about the health risks from Vioxx, with the jury determining that Merck did fail to warn Doherty; however, Merck's warnings to Doherty's doctors were sufficient.

Merck has now won [JURIST report] four Vioxx cases and lost three Vioxx cases, with over 11,000 lawsuits pending. In April, a New Jersey state court jury awarded $9 million [JURIST report] in punitive damages and $4.5 million in compensatory damages to the family of a 77-year-old heart attack victim. Another Texas jury found Merck liable last year for the death of a 59 year-old marathon runner who had taken the drug for eight months, awarding $253 million [JURIST report]; that award was reduced to $26 million under Texas punitive damages caps. A different Texas jury also awarded the family of a 71-year old man who died from a heart attack $32 million [JURIST report] - $7 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages - in April. Merck pulled the drug from the market in September 2004 after a study showed that it could double the risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for more than 18 months. Merck set aside $1 billion to fight every Vioxx court challenge. Bloomberg has more.

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