More than 600 Australians who suffered heart attacks, strokes and blood-related illnesses after taking the recalled arthritis drug Vioxx will join a multi-billion-dollar class action against US pharmaceutical giant Merck and Co.
The class action includes relatives of patients who died from heart attacks and strokes, and others who were suffering heart palpitations, bowel problems and blood clots.
Vioxx was recalled in September in potentially the largest recall of a prescription drug.
This followed a clinical trial in the US that found it could cause serious cardiovascular problems if taken for more than 18 months.
All of the Australian claimants blame Vioxx tablets used to relieve arthritis or bone-related pain for their ill health.
Josephine Cicciarello started taking Vioxx three years ago for a painful knee and has suffered heart palpitations for about 18 months.
“It’s such a sharp pain that it makes me worry about having a heart attack,” said Ms Cicciarello, who lives in Sydney’s west.
A lawyer with an Adelaide law firm, said the number of Vioxx victims in Australia could reach 1000.
The lawyer said that statistically about one in 65 patients who took Vioxx for more than 18 months suffered the heart and blood problems.
But the popularity of the drug meant large numbers of people were affected, including an estimated 10,000 in the US.
Mr Humphries said more than 600 former Vioxx users had contacted him and proceedings would be lodged early next year, either in the Federal Court in Adelaide or in the US, or both.
Since the recall, Merck has been named as defendant in more than 375 lawsuits in the US and some estimates put the potential damages bill the company will pay over the next 10 years at $18 billion.