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Merck wins yet another Vioxx suit

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This AP report
summarizes another Merck victory. A Tennessee man's claim that the maker of the withdrawn painkiller should compensate him for his 2003 heart attack has been rejected by a federal jury in New Orleans, the company's fourth victory in five federal trials.

The seven-member jury answered "no" on a verdict questionnaire when asked if evidence showed that Merck failed to adequately warn Anthony Dedrick's doctors of any known risk posed by Vioxx, or that the lack of such a warning was a cause of Dedrick's heart attack.

Merck lawyers had attacked the credibility of Dedrick, 50, of Waynesboro, Tenn., who was seeking $200,000 from the company. Dedrick's own lawyer acknowledged in his closing statement that Dedrick had other risk factors for his heart attack, including tobacco use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and cocaine use...

Merck has reserved nearly $1.6 billion for legal costs related to Vioxx, but has resisted setting aside money to pay jury awards or settlements with plaintiffs. This reminds me of the Bendectin litigation, won by the defendant but nonetheless leading to withdrawal of the product because of the costs of successfully defending it. Stronger arguments for loser-pays rules are pretty hard to come by.

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