Vioxx claim is last civil suit filed in Madison County in '07

Steve Gonzalez Jan. 3, 2008, 11:23pm

A Granite City woman filed a civil suit against Merck & Co. seeking damages for personal injuries, death and economic damages she claims her husband suffered as a result of taking the prescription medication Vioxx.

The suit, filed Dec. 31 in Madison County Circuit Court, was the 1,091st and final suit filed in the court in 2007.

Mary Jane Sitton claims her husband, Paul, died on Jan. 3, 2006, as a result of taking the prescription medication Vioxx.

Vioxx was introduced in the U.S> 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 of it being pulled from shelves, lawsuits were filed across the country against Merck & Co.

Represented by Aaron Dickey of the Goldenberg firm in Edwardsville, Sitton claims Merck knew that Vioxx contributed to platelet aggregation or clotting, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, deep vein thrombosis and other conditions from abnormal clot formation.

She claims Merck ignored and fraudulently concealed the risks in order to sell Vioxx, avoid the costs of safety precautions, and avoid litigation by people injured by Vioxx.

"The actions or inactions constitute gross negligence and demonstrate a reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others," the complaint states.

According to Sitton, Merck failed to design a safe product, negligently placed Vioxx on the market, failed to remove Vioxx from the market and failed to fund and conduct medical and scientific studies to determine the overall safety of Vioxx.

She also claims that the drug did not come with proper warnings regarding adverse side effects associated with its use and the comparative severity and duration of the side effects.

Sitton is seeking a judgment against Merck in excess of $350,000, costs, attorneys' fees, and other relief that the court deems just and proper.

Madison County Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian has been assigned to the case.

In November, Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to resolve certain Vioxx-related claims involving plaintiffs who suffered a heart attack or a stroke.

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