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First federal Vioxx case ends in mistrial

Dec 12, 2005 | UPI

The first federal case based on withdrawn painkiller Vioxx has ended in a mistrial.

The judge in the Houston-based lawsuit declared a mistrial Tuesday after the jury had been deliberating for about 18 hours, according to published reports.

The plaintiff in the aborted case is the widow of a Vioxx user who died in 2001 after taking Vioxx for about a month.

An earlier short-term user of the arthritis therapy had failed to persuade the jury in a New Jersey case that two weeks of Vioxx use had caused his heart attack.

In the federal case, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon reportedly based his ruling on the fact that the jury had not reached a verdict within a "reasonable time."

But initially, it was unclear whether last week's scathing charge by the New England Journal of Medicine -- accusing Merck of omitting three heart-attack incidents from its key Vioxx study -- had played a role in the judge's decision.

The plaintiffs asked the judge for a mistrial late last week when the report was first made public.

The only successful case against Merck so far involved long-term use of Vioxx. In that case, the company was ordered to pay out $253 million in damages to the user's widow.

There are currently more than 6,500 lawsuits pending against Merck based on its former blockbuster drug.

The company pulled the pain reliever off the market in September 2004 after a study showed the drug increased the risk of heart attack and stroke if taken for 18 months or longer.


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