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Merck Prevails in Vioxx Case

The drug didn't cause a Utah man's heart attack, a court finds.


(MRK) - Get Merck & Co., Inc. Report

won another Vioxx trial as a federal court in New Orleans said Wednesday that the company's arthritis drug didn't cause a Utah man's heart attack three years ago.

The plaintiff, Charles Mason, said he suffered a heart attack in 2003 after taking Vioxx for about 10 months. During the trial, Merck said Mason, now 64, had multiple risk factors for a heart attack, including "significant coronary artery disease," obesity and a family history of heart problems.

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Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004. The company said it acted after a clinical trial showed people who took Vioxx for more than 18 months had a higher risk of cardiovascular injury than those on a placebo. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the company since.

As of Oct. 9, Merck was facing 23,800 U.S. suits, involving 41,750 plaintiff groups claiming personal injury. The company also is a defendant in 275 complaints seeking class-action status and has been sued by Vioxx users overseas, as well.

Of the 16 cases that have gone to trial or were scheduled for trial, Merck lost four cases and won seven verdicts. Five cases were dismissed. Merck is appealing its losses, and a trial judge has set aside one of Merck's victories.

"Another five cases, previously scheduled for trial, have been withdrawn from the trial calendar by the plaintiffs before the claims could reach trial," the company said. Merck also said claims by more than 3,000 plaintiff groups not yet scheduled for trial have been dismissed, including claims by more than 1,100 plaintiff groups that cannot be refiled.