It's good to see Merck getting some momentum. If you really want to know what they are facing, stay home some day and watch the TV ads trolling for "victims" of literally dozens of discontinued drugs. Last holiday my wife - a health care practitioner - was sickened by the number and nature of them. One morning we lost count of the number of ads. She knows and prescribes the medications, and keeps up on the literature. She understands the whole risk/benefit equation - as do her patients. ALL drugs have side effects - end of story. But this special breed of trial lawyers wouldn't want the truth to get in the way of them taking what isn't theirs.
If the juries don't award the money, then maybe these people will get jobs which actually produce something.
This case is classic. Heart disease is the number 1 killer, and a 71-year-old male passing away from a heart attack is experiencing a natural and timely event. But you know those damned drug companies make a lot of money, and there's an elevated risk of a heart attack with this pain killer. So you just know there HAD to be causality... And where there's money, these ridiculous lawsuits will appear.
- WSJ.comMerck Wins California Vioxx Case,
Widening Edge on Trial Score Card
By ANDREW SIMONS and HEATHER WON TESORIERO
August 3, 2006; Page A8
A California jury cleared Merck & Co. of responsibility for the heart attack of Stewart Grossberg, a 71-year-old retired construction manager who took the painkiller Vioxx for about two years.
The 12-person jury deliberated for 4½ hours before finding Merck wasn't negligent. The jury said Vioxx did have risks that were knowable but that the risks didn't present a substantial danger to users.
The verdict, in Los Angeles Superior Court, widens Merck's slight edge on the Vioxx trial score card, with the drug maker winning five trials and losing three. The Whitehouse Station, N.J., drug maker faces some 14,200 suits over Vioxx, roughly 490 of which have been filed in California. "Today's outcome demonstrates, again, why we will defend these cases on a case-by-case basis," Kenneth Frazier, Merck's general counsel, said in a statement.
Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after a study known as Approve linked the drug to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients taking the drug for 18 months or longer. The New England Journal of Medicine, which published the Approve study in February 2005, recently issued a correction over the 18-month threshold, contradicting the company's position that the drug doesn't increase risk of heart attacks and strokes to people who took it for less than 18 months.
Lawyers for Merck argued that Mr. Grossberg's previous artery blockage was the cause of his heart attack. "From the beginning of time, arteries that clogged have caused heart attacks," Merck lawyer Tarek Ismail said during his closing remarks. "Literally millions of Americans have heart attacks in exactly the same way as Mr. Grossberg."
Plaintiffs' lawyer Thomas Girardi of Los Angeles-based Girardi & Keese devoted his closing remarks to arguing that Merck knew Vioxx was dangerous and that the company marketed the drug to the public anyway. He also tried to convince the jury that Vioxx was unsafe at any dose and that it was a contributing factor to Mr. Grossberg's heart attack.
Jurors weren't persuaded that Vioxx caused Mr. Grossberg's heart attack. Following the verdict, jury foreman Charles Sullenger said, "We don't feel there was a case that was ever made between Vioxx and heart attacks. The burden of proof was on the plaintiff. We didn't feel they ever met that." Another juror, Gary Adams said, "The plaintiffs focused too much on marketing." Plaintiffs' attorney Jim O'Callahan said, "There were instructions given to the jury for deliberations that we didn't agree with."
Mr. Ismail chalked the jurors' decision in favor of the drug maker up to "the cumulative effect of them getting to meet the scientists from Merck and see the care they put into it. That's what carried the day."
The second federal Vioxx trial is currently under way in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.
Write to Andrew Simons at email@example.com and Heather Won Tesoriero at firstname.lastname@example.org