Frederick “Mike” Humeston, a 60-year-old Idaho postal worker who suffered a heart attack while taking Vioxx, is suing Merck, contending that the drug maker hid Vioxx’s risks in an effort to preserve sales.
He took the stand Wednesday in the third week of the New Jersey Vioxx trial.
Mr. Humeston stated that he had been in good health prior to his heart attack, and had turned to Vioxx to relieve pain from an old Vietnam War wound. He had taken the medication for about two months when he suffered a debilitating heart attack while sitting in an easy chair.
The plaintiff described the radical changes in his life after the heart attack, detailing a list of activities that he could no longer perform. Humeston said that his September 18, 2001 heart attack had even affected his relationship with his wife.
Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market in 2004 after studies showed that it raised the incidence of heart attacks and strokes. In the first Vioxx trial, a Texas jury awarded $253 million to the widow of a Vioxx user. Merck is appealing that decision, and has promised to fight each Vioxx case individually. However, analysts contend the company could face very significant legal liabilities and may have to consider a broad settlement if they continue to lose cases.
Before Mr. Humeston’s testimony, Merck lawyers asked Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee to either declare a mistrial or strike the testimony of a prosecution witness, statistician Richard Kronmal. Merck contends that Mr. Kronmal’s testimony unfairly inflamed the jury. The judge did not immediately rule on the request.