Court Finds Drug Vioxx Doubled Heart Attack Risk
March 8, 2010
The Associated Press reports an Australian court has awarded 287,000 Australian dollars ($259,000) in compensation to a man leading a class action suit against the drug''s maker. Melbourne Federal Court Judge Christopher Jessup''s decision opens the door for claims from 600 other litigants in a lawsuit against U.S. pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. over its since-recalled drug Vioxx. The painkiller was taken off the global market in 2004 after research showed it raised the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Graeme Peterson, 59, of Melbourne, sued Merck and its Australian subsidiary, Merck Sharpe & Dohme, arguing the painkiller caused him to have a heart attack in 2003, leaving him unable to work. The judge found that Merck Sharpe & Dohme failed in its duty of care by not warning Peterson''s doctor about the drug''s potential cardiovascular risk, and by its sales representatives emphasizing the drug''s safety. But the judge rejected Peterson''s claim that Merck knew or should have known that the drug increased the risk of cardiovascular disease long before it yanked Vioxx from the market in 2004. Jessup also rejected Peterson''s argument that Merck had turned a blind eye to a 2000 clinical trial that showed potential cardiovascular risks were linked to use of the drug. Merck has already agreed to pay a $4.85 billion settlement to resolve about 50,000 lawsuits in the U.S. In a statement, Merck said it would appeal the portions of the judgment against Merck Sharpe & Dohme and noted the court dismissed all claims against the parent company, "specifically finding that Merck was not negligent in its development, scientific study and sale of Vioxx."