Defense says Schwaller's death related to pre-existing conditions

Steve Gonzalez Mar. 2, 2007, 12:18am

Patricia Schwaller's preexisting risk factors - a family history of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and sedentary lifestyle - was responsible for her tragic unfortunate, sudden cardiac death at age 53, Merck attorney Dan Ball told Madison County jurors Thursday as he wrapped up his opening arguments.

Ball, an attorney with Bryan Cave of St. Louis, is defending the drug maker on a case brought by Schwaller's husband who claims her death was the result of taking Vioxx.

Ball also said Merck quickly acted in presenting study results to the Food and Drug Administration, the scientific community, doctors in individual letters, patients and to the public in press releases.

"It's not fair and it's not right to blame Merck for this," Ball said.

A day before plaintiff's attorney Andy Birchfield told jurors that it took Merck nearly two years to update the warning label on Vioxx to show the results from a "VIGOR" study.

But Ball blamed the FDA for the delay.

He also asked jurors to listen carefully to the witnesses who will testify against Merck during the four-to-five week-long trial.

"Some have axes to grind, some have strong opinions, some are doing it for the publicity," Ball said.

"Some, I don't know what their motivation is."

Ball wrapped up his statement, jurors finished the day with videotaped testimony from Dr. Jerome Avorn of Harvard University.

The almost nine-hour long video will be condensed for jurors who will not likely hear from live witnesses until Tuesday.

Lawyers in the case said they expect almost half of the testimony will be on video.

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Bryan Cave
1 Metropolitan Square
St. Louis, MO 63102

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