HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, March 5, 2007

More Merck News has a brief write-up concerning the most recent Vioxx cases.  It reports,

A New Jersey state jury dealt Merck & Co. a mixed verdict Friday in the drugmaker's latest trial over its former painkiller Vioxx.  The Atlantic City jury ruled Merck was negligent and did not properly warn doctors about the cardiovascular risks in the case of one former Vioxx user who survived a heart attack. The ruling sets the stage for a second phase of the trial, starting this week, to consider whether Frederick "Mike" Humeston, 61, of Boise, Idaho, deserves compensatory and punitive damages.

The jury ruled against the second plaintiff in the trial, deciding Merck was not negligent in its marketing of Vioxx but had violated New Jersey's consumer fraud law. That means Kathleen Hermans Messerschmidt, the widow of Brian Hermans of Waupaca, Wisc., at best can recoup three times the amount he spent on Vioxx prescriptions. Hermans died at age 44 after having a heart attack on Sept. 15, 2002.

Merck said the jury's split verdict essentially means jurors decided Merck gave proper warning about Vioxx risks before Hermans died of a heart attack, but not before Humeston suffered his heart attack a year earlier. In between, Merck put a stronger warning in the detailed package insert for Vioxx, under pressure from federal regulators.

Prior to this trial, Merck had won eight cases and lost four in the massive litigation over its former blockbuster arthritis pill. Another trial with two plaintiffs ended in a mistrial in January.

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