Merck & Co. found liable for $253.4 million in Texas man's Vioxx-related death

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Drug maker Merck & Co. was found liable for a person's death concerning the use of the pain medication Vioxx, according to a jury verdict in a Texas court.

The plaintiff's case, headed by the widow of Robert Ernst, who died in 2001 of an irregular heartbeat and of clogged arteries while on the drug Vioxx, was successfully awarded $253.4 million dollars. Vioxx was pulled from the shelves in 2004 after a study discovered it could double the risk of a heart attack or stroke if taken for longer than 1.5 years. However, the US government agency, the FDA, decided in February of this year to allow the product back on the shelves.

Merck's stock price dropped 10% within minutes of the verdict being announced, and continued to fall hours after. There are in excess of 4,200 other Vioxx-related lawsuits pending across the USA.

The company plans to appeal the decision.