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Jury finds Merck not liable in fifth federal Vioxx trial

[JURIST] A federal jury in New Orleans returned a verdict [Merck press release] in favor of pharmaceutical giant Merck [corporate website] Wednesday, concluding that the company did not fail to adequately warn a Tennessee man's doctors about risks associated with the painkiller Vioxx [Merck Vioxx Information Center website; JURIST news archive]. Anthony Dedrick suffered a heart attack after taking Vioxx, and his lawyers argued that Merck failed to sufficiently warn his doctors about the risks of taking the drug and that the lack of a warning caused the heart attacks. Both claims were rejected by the jury. Merck faces thousands of lawsuits over the drug, which was pulled 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. This is the fifth federal trial to reach a verdict; Merck has won four of those cases, with the fifth decided in favor of the plaintiff. A federal judge, however, threw out the $50 million jury verdict [JURIST report] in the Merck loss as "grossly excessive" and ordered a new trial to determine damages.

Last month, US District Judge Eldon Fallon, who is responsible for co-ordinating pre-trial procedures [JURIST report] in the federal cases, rejected [order, PDF; JURIST report] a bid to have all federal lawsuits [consolidated litigation website] against Merck brought in connection with Vioxx consolidated in a single national class action against the company. AP has more.

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