A Texas jury found that Merck's pain-relieving medication Vioxx caused a 71-year-old man's death by heart attack, and handed down a $32-million judgment against the company. However, because of Texas laws limiting punitive damages, the amount will likely be reduced to $7.75 million.
Less Than One Month
In the various lawsuits against the company, Merck has tried to convince jurors that Vioxx can only cause harm if it is taken for more than 18 months.
The Texas trial concerned a man who took Vioxx for less than one month, which may bode badly for Merck in terms of future lawsuits. Merck plans to appeal the decision.
Merck Still Optimistic
Merck attorneys say they remain pleased by the 50/50 win/loss split so far in court rulings; pointing out that winning even a single case proves that juries can differentiate between those claims that are valid and those that are not.
Although Merck has vowed to fight each and every Vioxx case, legal experts believe that can only be a short-term plan; the New Jersey drugmaker has already been spending about $70 million in legal costs per case.
Forced to Settle?If the number of plaintiffs continue to rise, judges sifting through an increasing number of Vioxx lawsuits could also put an end to the legal fight by forcing Merck and its plaintiffs to settle.