[JURIST] Opening statements began Wednesday in the second trial against Merck [corporate website] over the distribution of its painkiller Vioxx [Merck Vioxx Information Center website; JURIST news archive]. The plaintiff in this case is an Idaho postal worker who claims that taking Vioxx caused him to suffer a heart attack. Lawyers for the plaintiff argued Wednesday that he would not have taken the drug if Merck had been forthcoming about the fact that Vioxx could increase the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes [FDA public health advisory] when it first learned of the issue, but rather the company waited 18 months to warn doctors. Merck's attorney denied the allegations, saying she would prove Vioxx did not cause the plaintiff's heart attack and that the company reported the drug's potential effects when it found out about them. Currently, there are 2,475 Vioxx cases pending against Merck in New Jersey alone, where the company is incorporated, and the company is facing almost 5,000 lawsuits across the United States. The first trial ended in a judgment against the company [JURIST report] for $253 million last month. AP has more.
3:46 PM ET – During the trial Thursday, Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee reprimanded a Merck lawyer for making references to the plaintiff's attorneys during opening arguments, and warned that there would be "repercussions", including a possible mistrial, if the conduct continued. Reuters has more.