Merck hit with six suits in Madison and St. Clair

Steve Gonzalez May 6, 2005, 4:26am

Merck & Co., producer of the once widely-used prescription medicine Vioxx, continues to be pounded in local courts by consumers claiming illness from taking the anti-inflammatory medication.

Six lawsuits were filed April 28 in St. Clair and Madison County Courts by attorney John Driscoll of St. Louis.

In St. Clair County:

  • 74-year-old Betty Sharkey claims her use of Vioxx significantly contributed to her stroke.

  • Stanley Hayes claims his stroke at age 27 was caused by taking Vioxx.

  • Gary Willis alleges he suffered a heart attack at age 59 because he used Vioxx.

  • Jackie Collins claims at the time of her stroke she was 64-years-old. Collins also named Pfizer as a defendant claiming she took both Bextra and Vioxx.

    Filing suit in Madison County:

  • Nancy Marcum claims at age 46 she suffered a stroke caused by taking Vioxx.

  • At age 56, Marilyn Fleming suffered a stroke, caused or significantly contributed by her use of Vioxx.

    The new Vioxx suits, filed by individuals rather than as class action, seek judgments 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 was pulled from the market in September because studies indicated it could contribute to heart ailments. Since then, lawsuits against Merck & Co. have flooded courts across the country.

    While Merck & Co. has made a habit of removing cases filed to federal court in order to combine the massive tort, federal Judge Patrick Murphy has been sending them back just as fast for lack of subject jurisdiction.

    “Merck’s conduct was done with conscious disregard for the safety of Vioxx users,” the complaints state.

    According to the complaints, which mirror most other Vioxx suits, 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 allege that Merck's conduct was done with conscious disregard for safety, justifying an award for punitive damages.

    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.

    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.

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