[JURIST] Lawyers involved in the huge litigation [official website; JURIST news archive] against Merck [corporate website] over its drug Vioxx [FDA overview] said Thursday that federal lawsuits against the drug company could begin in late autumn 2005. The first state trial begins in Texas next month with two more to follow in the late summer and a fourth in New Jersey. Disagreements over the turning over of evidence by Merck have slowed the process in the federal courts but a plan is being implemented to speed up the process and begin the first trials in New Orleans. The painkiller Vioxx was taken off the market [Merck press release] in September when a link was found between heart attacks and strokes and prolonged use of the drug. Some 3500 Vioxx-related lawsuits have since been launched in US federal and state courts. AP has more.