March 17, 2007
Roger Williams Symposium on Genuine Tort Reform
On Friday, April 20, 2007, the Ralph R. Papitto School of Law at Roger Williams University will host a symposium entitled, "Genuine Tort Reform." From Roger Williams, Dean David Logan and Professors Carl Bogus, Timothy Kuhner, Colleen Murphy, and Larry Ritchie will speak. Other speakers include Professors Marc Galanter (Wisconsin), Ellen Wertheimer (Villanova), Peter Schuck (Yale), Ross Cheit (Center for Public Policy, Brown), Martha Chamallas (Ohio State), Deborah Hensler (Stanford), Joseph Sanders (Houston), Valerie Hans (Cornell), Jay Feinman (Rutgers, Camden), and Neil Vidmar (Duke).
March 13, 2007
Punitive Damages in NJ Vioxx Case
In the retrial of the Humeston Vioxx case in New Jersey, the jury yesterday afternoon found Merck liable for punitive damages, adding $27.5 million of punitives to the $20 million compensatory damages verdict it had rendered earlier in the day. Here are excerpts from the AP story in the Houston Chronicle -- Vioxx Jury Awards $47.5M to Idaho Couple:
Merck & Co.'s painkiller Vioxx contributed to an Idaho postal worker's heart attack, a jury in Atlantic City ruled Monday, reversing the verdict in the man's first trial and hitting Merck with a total of $47.5 million in damages.
In one of Merck's biggest losses over the drug so far, the jurors awarded the man and his wife $20 million in compensatory damages Monday morning, then later said Merck should pay $27.5 million in punitive damages.
The jurors, after deliberating for about five hours over two days, awarded Humeston $18 million in compensatory damages for pain and suffering and gave $2 million to his wife, Mary. Then, after brief arguments over punitive damages, the jury deliberated briefly late Monday afternoon and decided to assess $27.5 million in punitive damages against Merck.
Humeston lost his first trial against the pharmaceutical giant in 2005, but New Jersey Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee granted him a second trial because new evidence surfaced that short-term Vioxx use could also be risky; Humeston took the drug on and off for about two months. Merck insists Vioxx didn't increase cardiac risks until after 18 months of use, but many doctors say research disproves that.
March 12, 2007
Vioxx verdict: $20 million for Humeston
In the retrial of Mike Humeston's Vioxx lawsuit against Merck, the jury this morning awarded $20 million in compensatory damages. Here's an excerpt from Linda Johnson's AP story in the Houston Chronicle -- Vioxx Jury Awards $20M to Idaho Couple:
Merck & Co.'s painkiller Vioxx contributed to the heart attack of an Idaho postal worker, a state jury in Atlantic City ruled Monday. The jury awarded Frederick "Mike" Humeston and his wife $20 million in compensatory damages.
The verdict at the end of the eight-week trial means Merck has now won nine cases and lost five in the mushrooming litigation over its former blockbuster arthritis pill.
Humeston, 61, of Boise, Idaho, suffered a heart attack in September 2001, several months before Merck _ under pressure from federal regulators _ put a stronger warning about the cardiovascular risks of Vioxx on the drug's detailed package insert.
Humeston, a decorated veteran, had taken Vioxx intermittently for about two months for knee pain from a Vietnam War shrapnel wound.
The five-man, three-woman jury ruled on March 2 that Merck was negligent and did not provide adequate warning about those risks prior to Humeston's heart attack. That set the stage for a second phase of the trial, with the jury last week hearing evidence on whether Vioxx contributed to Humeston's heart attack, entitling him to damages.
The jurors awarded Humeston $18 million in compensatory damages and gave another $2 million to his wife, Mary.
New Jersey Judge Carol Higbee established a phased trial structure for this joint trial, which now moves to the punitive damages phase.
March 11, 2007
InterMune Abandons Actimmune Lung Disease Medicine
Article in the New York Times -- Drug Maker Stops Work on Lung Disease Medicine, by Andrew Pollack. Here's an excerpt:
Desperate patients with a potentially fatal lung condition have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last few years on a drug that was not approved for their disease but was promoted for that use by its manufacturer.
Now it appears the drug does not work after all.
The drug’s maker, InterMune, said yesterday that it was abandoning efforts to develop the product, Actimmune, as a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis because results from a late-stage clinical trial showed the drug did not prolong lives. The drug is already federally approved to treat two other rare conditions.
The company said the 826-patient trial was being stopped after an interim analysis showed that 14.5 percent of the patients getting Actimmune had already died, compared with 12.7 percent of those getting a placebo. Statistically speaking, there was no meaningful difference in survival between the two groups.
The failure will be considered a blow to the 80,000 or more Americans with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an often fatal scarring of the lungs for which there are no approved medications.
Last fall InterMune agreed to pay $36.9 million in a settlement with the federal government over allegations that it had promoted off-label use of Actimmune, which costs about $50,000 per year.