[JURIST] US District Judge Eldon E. Fallon of the US Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] Tuesday modified his 2006 ruling [JURIST report] that rejected a $51 million jury award [JURIST report] against pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. [corporate website], offering the plaintiff $600,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. The plaintiff, Gerald Barnett, a former FBI agent who alleged that Merck's painkiller Vioxx [Merck backgrounder; JURIST news archive] caused his heart attack, can either accept the award within thirty days or have a new trial. Barnett's attorney, Mark Robinson, has indicated that he will recommend that Barnett accept the award. Fallon also rejected Merck's motion to dismiss the verdict and partly denied a motion by Merck requesting a new trial on all issues. Fallon indicated that "the Court will defer reconsidering the scope of the new trial at this time."
Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after a study showed that it could double the risk of heart attacks or stroke if taken for more than 18 months. Expert advisory panels at the US Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada [official websites] have subsequently approved the reintroduction of Vioxx to the market after noting some studies that the increased cardiovascular risks from Vioxx were not worse than those from many COX-2 inhibiting nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NASID) [backgrounder] like Celebrex. Bloomberg has more.