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Brentwood Man Sues Vioxx Maker

Oct 29, 2004 | Contra Costa Times

A 52-year-old Brentwood man who says he suffered two heart attacks while taking the arthritis medicine Vioxx is suing the drug's maker.

Dennis Guinta's lawsuit against New Jersey-based Merck & Co., filed Wednesday in Contra Costa Superior Court, is the second filed here alleging that Merck failed to notify doctors and patients that continued use of Vioxx could cause serious side effects, including heart attack and stroke.

About 300 similar suits have been filed across the country against Merck since the company pulled the product off the shelves Sept. 30, according to a company news release. The other Contra Costa suit predated the drug's withdrawal from the market.

"I'm just looking for them to take responsibility," Guinta said.

He declined to say how much money he is seeking. His suit doesn't specify an amount.

Guinta's complaint alleges that he is one of thousands of Contra Costa County residents who have suffered medical complications as a result of using the drug. His attorney, Rick Simons, who described himself as a 30-year specialist in medical liability cases, said he intends to ask for the suit to be certified as a class action. Simons said other Vioxx users have contacted him.

Merck spokeswoman Anita Larsen said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Guinta, who drives bulldozers and tractors in San Francisco for a living, said he used Vioxx for two years to alleviate arthritis.

In the shower after dinner one evening in June, he found himself sweating uncontrollably, he said. He called for an ambulance, which took him to Delta Memorial Hospital, where a doctor told him he had suffered two heart attacks that day, he said.

"This was a big surprise," he said. "I didn't think I was at risk."

Vioxx sales totaled $2.5 billion in 2003, according to Merck.

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