Plaintiffs seek $1.5 million from Merck in federal Vioxx suit

Steve Gonzalez Sep. 26, 2006, 7:34am

Three Illinois residents who claim they suffered damages as a result of taking Vioxx filed suit in federal court each seeking damages in excess of $1.6 million.

The plaintiffs, Charles F. Stalnaker, of Flora, and Loren E. Navel and Mildred N. Grisko of Effingham, claim they were prescribed Vioxx for the treatment of pain.

They claim Merck:

  • Negligently designed, manufactured, and marketed a defective and unreasonably dangerous drug that increases the risk of adverse cardiovascular events when a safer alternative design was available;

  • Negligently failed to adequately test Vioxx for adverse cardiovascular events when the risks associated with Vioxx were or should have been known to it; and

  • Negligently failed to withdraw Vioxx from the market when it knew or should have known that it caused adverse cardiovascular events.

    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.

    Merck pulled Vioxx on Sept. 30, 2004, after a study confirmed that it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke if taken for more than 18 months. Within days, lawsuits were filed across the country against Merck & Co.

    The plaintiffs claim Merck caused the Plaintiffs to be prescribed and to ingest Vioxx and to suffer adverse cardiovascular events, causing the Plaintiffs permanent bodily injury, past and future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, and past and future disability.

    They also claim Merck negligently failed to make any reasonable attempts to warn the FDA, physicians, and consumers of the increased adverse cardiovascular events associated with Vioxx.

    "Merck's failure to warn of the cardiovascular dangers of Vioxx caused Plaintiffs to be prescribed and to ingest Vioxx," the complaint states.

    The plaintiffs also claim Merck made affirmations of fact regarding the cardiovascular safety of Vioxx, including the affirmations that Vioxx was safe and effective, through its advertisements, labeling, and its employees' communications with physicians and the FDA with the intent that the FDA, prescribing physicians, and consumers rely.

    "Merck, as the designer and manufacturer of Vioxx, possessed superior knowledge with respect to the cardiovascular safety or danger of Vioxx," the complaint states.

    They also claim Merck violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by communicating 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 themselves, and their respective healthcare providers rely upon the omissions and misrepresentations and purchase or prescribe Vioxx.

    "Merck, with malice and conscious disregard for the rights and safety of Plaintiffs, designed, manufactured, and marketed an unreasonably dangerous drug that it knew would and, in fact, did increase adverse cardiovascular events when a safer design was available, so that it could increase NSAID market share and increase its profit from the sale of Vioxx," the complaint states.

    The plaintiffs are represented by Michael Meyer of Effingham.

    They are each seeking $600,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

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

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