Cardiologist clears Vioxx in man''s death
A cardiologist testifying Friday, August 12 ruled out Vioxx as the cause of a Texas man''s death who took the once-popular painkiller for eight months, citing the lack of evidence of a heart attack or blood clot in the autopsy, the Associated Press reports. Dr. Craig Pratt, director of research at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston, said the autopsy of 59-year-old Robert Ernst "speaks for itself," attributing his death to an irregular heartbeat caused by clogged arteries with no mention of a heart attack. His testimony for Vioxx manufacturer Merck & Co. highlighted the crux of the dispute in the nation''s first Vioxx-related lawsuit to go to trial: Whether Vioxx, which Merck pulled from the market last year after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for 18 months or longer, had anything to do with Ernst''s death. Merck expects to rest its defense Monday or Tuesday, and closing arguments could begin by Wednesday, August 16. Ernst''s widow, Carol, claims Merck knew years before it pulled the drug in 2004 that Vioxx could be dangerous, but minimized those concerns in favor of profits. Her husband, a Wal-Mart produce manager who also ran marathons, died in his sleep after taking Vioxx for eight months to ease pain in his hands.