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Merck Wins Vioxx Case

A federal jury says the company was not negligent for the drug itself or for failing to warn of associated risks.
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Merck

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won another court ruling when a federal jury in New Orleans ruled late Friday the drugmaker was not liable in the 2001 death of a Florida man who used Vioxx.

Merck shares rose 2.1% to $36.81 in after-hours trading Friday.

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An eight-person jury found Vioxx was not defective and that Merck was negligent neither for the product itself nor for failing to warn users of its potential risks. The case was filed by the family of 53-year-old Richard Irvin, whose family claimed Vioxx triggered a heart attack. Friday's decision came during a retrial of the case; in December a nine-member jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.

"The jury's decision confirms that there is no medical or scientific evidence showing short-term use of Vioxx increases the risk of heart attack and contributed in any way to the unfortunate death of Richard Irvin," Philip Beck, of the law firm of Bartlit Beck, Merck's lead trial lawyer in the case said in a statement. "Mr. Irvin only took Vioxx for less than a month. He suffered multiple long-standing risk factors for a heart attack including partially clogged arteries. Mr. Irvin would have suffered a heart attack when he did, whether he was taking Vioxx or not."

Merck recalled Vioxx in September 2004 after it was shown to double heart attack and stroke risks for those who took it at least 18 months. The company reportedly faces more than 9,000 cases alleging the company knew about the risks long before the recall.

Friday's victory is Merck's second of three cases tried thus far, and the first in federal court. Merck is appealing a Texas jury's verdict that awarded the widow of a 59-year Vioxx user $253 million in damages.