Merck sued over Vioxx in Madison County Court

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 5, 2004, 9:17am

Asbestos attorney Mike Bilbrey seen here with his wife, Linda, also owns an exotic animal farm/bed and breakfast in Edwardsville.

Bilbrey Farms Bed and Breakfast in Edwardsville

Mike Bilbrey, an experienced Madison County plaintiff's lawyer, filed a class action complaint against Merck Tuesday on behalf of his 75-year-old mother Patricia Bilbrey of Glen Carbon.

"Who better to stick up for than your mother," Bilbrey said.

Bilbrey, an asbestos specialist, was law partners with vaunted SimmonsCooper asbestos lawyer Randy Bono from 1990-96.

Bilbrey, of the Edwardsville firm, Bilbrey & Hylla, has help in this case from the Hendler Law Firm of Austin, Texas. Hendler specializes in pharmaceutical drug litigation.

A Venice native, Bilbrey and his wife, Linda, live along with parrots, llamas, emus, and a zebra in an Edwardsville stone mansion that doubles as Bilbrey Farms Bed and Breakfast.

Bilbrey helped raise money for the retention of Madison County Circuit Court Judges Phillip Kardis, Nicholas Byron and Edward Ferguson in 2002 in part from a $500-per-plate fundraising dinner at his bed and breakfast. Bilbrey Farms is open to the public for wedding receptions and other events.

Before being defeated in 2002 by Republican Jean Myers, Bilbrey served as Madison County board member, representing District 11, which includes most of Troy.

Vioxx was pulled from the market Thursday after a study confirmed that it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke if taken for more than 18 months. Patricia Bilbrey took the arthritis pain medication for more than 18 months.

The drug was approved by the FDA in 1999, and was marketed as a safe alternative pain medication for people who suffer from arthritis.

Bilbrey's suit is a class action consumer fraud case.

"Merck touted Vioxx as a better pain killer, even though they have known for years that it increased the risk of heart attack, stroke, and deep vein thrombosis," Bilbrey told The Record by telephone.

In the complaint, Bilbrey alleges Merck concealed and misrepresented the risks of taking Vioxx and that it was not superior to other safer and less expensive pain relievers.

In a related matter, attorneys filed a class action complaint Monday in Cook County Circuit Court that covers the estimated 300,000 people in Illinois who took Vioxx.

Officials at Merck declined comment on pending litigation. However, the company's spokesperson said, "Merck plans to fight all litigation against Vioxx."

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