New Vioxx suit targets Merck and four pharmacies

Steve Gonzalez Apr. 7, 2005, 12:01pm

Jeffery Lowe

Claiming that Vioxx led to the demise of their health, six Illinois residents filed suit against Merck & Co.--maker of the arthritis pain reliever--and the pharmacies where they purchased the medicine.

The plaintiffs, who filed suit in Madison County Circuit Court April 7, claim they bought their Vioxx at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, and Schnuck's Pharmacy, before it was taken off the market six months ago.

They are represented by Jeffery Lowe of St. Louis, Joseph Danis of Carey & Danis of St. Louis and Evan Buxner of Walther Glenn.

  • Greg Miller of Alton alleges he developed heart and cardiovascular problems at 41 years of age after taking Vioxx for several years.

  • Karen Molnar of Hillsboro claims she suffered four strokes.

  • Jerry Hill of Bismark, Ill. states that he developed heart and cardiovascular problems at age 60 after taking Vioxx.

  • Patricia Bass of Mt. Vernon claims that at age 48 she suffered a stroke which was caused by her Vioxx use. She states that she continued to take Vioxx four months after her stroke.

  • Anna Trump of Decatur claims that she developed heart and cardiovascular problems while taking Vioxx.

  • Virgie Wheeler did not state any specific complaints or where he bought Vioxx.

    In related news, Pfizer Inc.--the nation's largest drug company--agreed Thursday to halt sales and marketing of its arthritis painkiller Bextra at the request of U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    In addition, the agency ordered dozens of other prescription or nonprescription NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen and naproxen, which all are pain relievers, to carry new tougher warnings about risks of heart problems and gastrointestinal bleeding.

    Last December, the FDA recommended limited prescription of Celebrex and Bextra, which like Vioxx, are a part of a class of NSAIDs known as COX-2 inhibitors.

    The new Vioxx suit seeks a judgment in the plaintiffs' favor for a fair and just amount of actual damages in an amount to be proved at trial, costs of the suit, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest and punitive damages in a fair and reasonable amount to punish and deter Merck and others from engaging in conduct as alleged, and any other relief the court deems just and proper.

    Vioxx is the brand name of rofecoxib, one of a class of drugs called prostaglandins which work to reduce inflammation and pain by providing analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits to people who suffer from arthritis and muscle pain.

    Vioxx was introduced in the United States in 1999. Vioxx is a Cyclo-Oxygenase-2 (cox2) inhibitor and was used to treat arthritis and is in the class of drugs called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory). Other NSAID drugs include Ibuprofen, Celebrex and Aleve.

    The plaintiffs claim that at the time Vioxx was manufactured and sold to them, it was defective in design and unreasonably dangerous, subjecting them to risks of heart attack, strokes, and other illnesses which exceeded the benefits of the products when safer products were available.

    Merck failed to effectively warn users and doctors that numerous other methods of pain relievers, including Ibuprofen, Naproxen and Mobic were safer, the plaintiffs' claim. they also alleges that Merck's conduct was done with conscious disregard for safety, justifying an award for punitive damages.

    The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Daniel J. Stack.

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