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Federal jury finds Merck not liable in Vioxx trial

[JURIST] A federal jury in Louisiana found Merck [corporate website] not liable [Merck statement] Tuesday for the heart attack of plaintiff Robert Garry Smith after he took the company's painkiller Vioxx [Merck Vioxx Information Center website; JURIST news archive] for about four months in late 2002 and early 2003. Merck argued [pre-trial statement] that it acted reasonably in voluntarily added a warning of increased risk of heart attack and stoke on the Vioxx label and it pointed to Smith's already high risk of heart attack. The case is the third federal ruling regarding the controversial painkiller and the first to involve a claimant who began taking the medication after Merck changed the product's label. Merck has emerged victorious from two of the three federal lawsuits and has won four of seven state cases decided so far.

In August US District Judge Eldon E. Fallon, who is presiding over all federal Vioxx litigation [Vioxx multi-district litigation website], overturned a jury verdict [JURIST report] against Merck for over $50 million in compensatory damages and ordered a new trial in a different Vioxx lawsuit. There are over 18,000 Vioxx lawsuits pending against Merck, but the statute of limitations, which is two years in many states, will expire soon since Vioxx was removed from shelves in September 2004. Bloomberg News has more.

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