54 plaintiffs claim injury from Vioxx in federal suit

Steve Gonzalez Apr. 12, 2006, 8:44am

On the heels of a recent $13.5 million jury verdict in New Jersey, 54 people filed suit against Merck & Company in federal court in East St. Louis claiming injury from taking the pain reliever Vioxx.

Represented by Jerome Schlichter and Roger Denton of St. Louis, the plaintiffs claim Merck's clinical studies and post-approval studies repeatedly demonstrated that Vioxx caused adverse cardiovascular events in humans.

They claim Merck repeatedly failed to disclose the cardiovascular risks of Vioxx to the Food and Drug Administration, prescribing physicians and consumers.

In Atlantic City, N.J., Merck & Co. was ordered Tuesday to pay $9 million in punitive damages to John McDarby who suffered a heart attack after using Vioxx. Last week he was awarded $3 million in compensatory damages and his wife was awarded $1.5 million for loss of services.

Heirs to four of the plaintiffs in the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois claim their loved ones died as a result of taking Vioxx and are seeking damages under a wrongful death statute.

Merck withdrew Vioxx from the world market in September 2004, after the investigators on the Adenomatous Polyp Prevention on Vioxx trial recommended ending the trial because Vioxx was causing increased adverse cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Each plaintiff is seeking damages in excess of $600,000 plus punitive damages claiming Merck, with malice and conscious disregard for the rights and the safety of plaintiffs marketed an unreasonably dangerous drug.

The plaintiffs claim Merck breached its duty to properly design, manufacture, inspect and test Vioxx by negligently failing to adequately test Vioxx for adverse cardiovascular events when the risks associated with the effect of Vioxx on thromboxane were known or should have been known and failed to withdraw Vioxx from the market when they knew or should have known that it caused adverse cardiovascular events.

The case has been assigned to Chief District Judge Patrick Murphy.

They claim they have received permanent bodily injuries after suffering adverse cardiovascular events, past and future medical expenses, past and future permanent pain and suffering and past and future permanent disability.

The plaintiffs' also claim Merck is in breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty.

They also claim Merck failed to adequately design Vioxx causing them to suffer adverse cardiovascular effects.

They also claim Merck violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by the false and misleading misrepresentations or omissions of material fact in connection with the marketing, promotion, and sale of Vioxx.

"Merck communicated the purported benefits of Vioxx while failing to disclose the serious and dangerous cardiovascular side effects related to the use of Vioxx with the intent that consumers, like plaintiffs', and their healthcare providers rely upon the omissions and misrepresentations and purchase or prescribe Vioxx, respectively," the complaint states.

Vioxx is the brand name of rofecoxib, a cox-2 inhibitor and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID). Other similar prescription NSAIDs include Bextra, Celebrex, Advil, Motrin and Aleve.

Vioxx is 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.


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