[JURIST] An Illinois jury sided with Merck & Co. [corporate website] Tuesday in the latest Vioxx [FDA backgrounder; JURIST news archive] litigation, holding that the painkiller was not the cause of the 2003 death of 52-year-old Patty Schwaller. Schwaller's husband claimed that Vioxx contributed to his wife's fatal heart attack and that Merck failed to adequately warn doctors and consumers about the increased risk of heart attack associated with the drug. A Madison County jury found, however, that Schwaller's collapse and sudden death may have been caused by risks associated with her weight and other health issues.
In early March, the New Jersey Superior Court upheld [JURIST report] a separate jury verdict that found Merck adequately warned physicians of the risks associated with Vioxx. A week later, a New Jersey jury awarded [JURIST report] a plaintiff $20 million and held that Vioxx caused the plaintiff's heart attack and, had the plaintiff's doctor known of the risks associated with Vioxx, he would not have prescribed it to the plaintiff. Merck faces more than 27,000 lawsuits from people who say they were harmed by the once $2.5 billion-a-year drug before it was pulled from the market [press release] in September 2004. Merck has set aside $1 billion to fight every Vioxx court challenge. In November 2006, a federal judge declined to certify a national class action suit [JURIST report], ruling that it made more sense to try the cases in their respective states of origin. AP has more.