Another Merck Victory: Ala. Jury Rejects Claims Against Vioxx

By | December 18, 2006

State court jurors sided with drug manufacturer Merck & Co. on Friday and rejected the claims of an Alabama man who blamed the painkiller Vioxx for a heart attack in 2001.

Attorneys for Gary Albright, 57, had told jurors he should receive as much as $5.75 million (euro4.39 million) in his lawsuit, filed last year.

But a jury of eight women and four men rejected Albright’s claims that Vioxx caused his heart attack and that the company failed to reveal potential dangers of the drug before pulling it from the market in 2004.

Deliberations took only 1 1/2 hours; it was the second time in three days that a jury came back with a quick verdict for Merck in a trial over Vioxx. A federal court jury in New Orleans ruled for Merck on Wednesday.

“Juries continue to determine that Merck acted responsibly in its research of Vioxx and provided the appropriate information about Vioxx to patients and the medical community,” Merck executive vice president and general counsel Kenneth C. Frazier said in a statement.

One of Albright’s attorney, Steve Heninger, said an appeal was possible.

“We’re disappointed, but it’s tough when you go against a Goliath,” he said.

Jurors speaking with attorneys and reporters in the courtroom after the verdict said Albright had too many health problems before his heart attack to blame Vioxx. None of the jurors would give their names.

Albright’s attorney, Tim Davis, had asked the Birmingham jury to make a decision: “Did profits lead over safety?”

Merck denied that Vioxx had anything to do with the heart attack Albright suffered in March 2001. It also denied withholding information about potential side effects of the medication, which Albright took for arthritis.

Merck attorney Mike Brock said Albright, of Chelsea, had only a “small heart attack” that did not cause lasting damage to his lifestyle. Albright was at high risk for heart problems because he had diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and was overweight, he said.

“One dollar would be too much for either compensatory or punitive damages,” Brock said in closing arguments.

Albright, who works in the paint department of a Lowe’s home improvement store, filed suit last year, and Merck also contended he waited too long to sue.

Merck removed Vioxx from the market in 2004 after its research showed the drug doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Merck has said it faces about 27,200 suits over Vioxx plus another 265 potential class-action suits. Another 14,000 plaintiffs have entered agreements with Merck suspending the time limit for lawsuits.

Merck has won four federal cases over Vioxx and lost one. In state courts, the company now has won four and lost three. A judge in one case ordered a retrial after jurors sided with Merck.

Topics Lawsuits Claims Alabama

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