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Testimony: Feds not told about tests that exposed Vioxx dangers

Jun 30, 2006 | AP

Merck & Co. did not inform federal authorities about two clinical trials in which users of the painkiller Vioxx were more likely to die than people given a placebo, jurors in the first Vioxx liability case to go to trial in California were told Wednesday.

Dr. Edward Scolnick, the former head of Merck & Co.'s research laboratories, said in a videotaped deposition that he did not believe the numbers were coincidental.

"It's not likely due to chance," he said.

Scolnick's testimony was shown to jurors on the second day of Stewart Grossberg's products liability lawsuit against Merck.

The 71-year-old plaintiff alleges the painkiller caused him to have a heart attack in 2001 and that Merck & Co. marketed it without warning consumers of its potential problems.

Merck & Co. said there's no proof Vioxx caused the Southern California man's heart ailments.

Grossberg's lawsuit is one of more than 13,000 such claims against Merck nationwide. Some 2,000 of the lawsuits were filed in California and consolidated in Los Angeles Superior Court by Judge Victoria G. Chaney.

Scolnick testified that people who took Vioxx died at a rate four times higher than those who didn't receive the drug in one of the clinical trials, and 2 1/2 times higher in the other. Both trials were done in 2001 to see if Vioxx could help Alzheimers patients.

Merck & Co., however, did not turn over trial results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when company officials met with agency representatives in April of that year, Scolnick said.

He said he was not aware of the clinical trial results at the time.

Merck put Vioxx on the market in 1999 as a treatment for arthritis and acute pain in adults. The company pulled the drug from the market two years ago, citing research that showed Vioxx doubled risk of heart attacks and strokes with long-term use.

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