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Vioxx lawsuit has recently
been in the news most often. Vioxx was one of the most prescribed drugs for
arthritis pain, before it was taken off the market by its manufacturer Merck. It
was taken off the market in September 2004 when research trials proved that it
increased the chances of a heart attack in the patient. Even though the drug has
been pulled off the market about a year ago, legal action against the
manufacturer Merck will continue and increase for sometime now.
Vioxx lawsuit has become a more house hold term after a judge awarded
$253.4 million to the Carol Ernst, widow of Bob Ernst due to his death in May
2001 from the drug. The award was among the highest ever awarded to an
individual plaintiff, Merck has said it will appeal. He
used Vioxx most often. This has prompted more and more Personal injury attorneys
representing clients allegedly harmed by the drug to congratulate themselves
over this historic judgment. This Vioxx lawsuit defeat caused Merck stock to
fall 8 percent in an afternoon and it has yet to recover.
During the 1998 clinical
trials for Vioxx, Merck the manufacturer reported to FDA that there were no
apparent cardiovascular signals. This in normal terms means that there were no
hints that the drug might cause and heart problems for the users. Later, during
internal trials conducted by Merck around the same period revealed serious
cardiovascular complications in Vioxx users compared to patients not using the
drug. This was also labeled as Study – 090. The study was not published since
Merck; the manufacturer claimed that the sample size was not large enough to
provide definitive data.
In 1999, FDA gave formal
approval to the drug, Vioxx. The drug became the second nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory medication [or COX-2 inhibitor] in the market after its
predecessor Celebrex. Celebrex was another problem drug.
was expected to make up the shortfall of reducing sales from Merck's other drugs
facing competition, but sales were slowed down by concerns among doctors that
its use could form blood clots that may cause heart attacks. Merck has tried to
calm doctor’s fears with new precaution information that includes mention of
the heart risks, and assuring them of an ongoing study to collect more
information on cardiovascular outcomes of using Vioxx. Merck
then promoted the new Vioxx aggressively into international market and by 2003
it was available in 80 countries with sales above $2.5 billion. Apparently,
Merck’s ongoing internal tests revealed deadly side effects.
During this process, FDA,
sometime in 2001, recommended that warning labels be put upon prescriptions
displaying potential side effects. FDA also warned Merck to stop providing
misleading information to physicians about potential side effects.
Problems started surfacing
soon and they served as warnings to FDA and the industry critics and to Personal
Injury attorneys who soon began to gather evidence. This evidence gathering
resulted in Merck’s negligence to surface. This was the beginning of massive
advertising campaigns in all forms of media and the internet apparently meant to
inform and attract patients harmed by the drug – the message asking patients
suspecting harm from using Vioxx to come forward.
The last nail in the coffin
was Merck’s announcement in September 2004, withdrawing Vioxx. This
established credibility to the personal injury litigation which was well on its
way. And viola, the Vioxx lawsuit was born. The first cases were filed in early
2005. Ernst’s case was the first to be settled. This is the tip of the
iceberg. This could lead to wrongful death Vioxx lawsuits against Merck as a
result of Ernst’s decision.
As of August 15, 2005,
4,951 was the exact number of filed Vioxx lawsuits, and tens of thousands more
are expected. Seeing that the number of Vioxx lawsuits is increasing by the day,
Merck may consider offering settlements to plaintiffs in some cases. Merck
had previously planned to defend itself in every personal-injury Vioxx lawsuit.
This would mark a first step by Merck in undoing the damage Vioxx has caused.
Lawyers expect at least 25,000 suits to be filed eventually. About 20 million
people used Vioxx between May 1999 and September 2004, when Merck stopped
selling the drug after a clinical trial showed that Vioxx caused heart attacks
and strokes in patients taking it for at least 18 months.
We can expect the Vioxx
lawsuit to rule the medical and legal news for some time to come, and it has the
potential to be the biggest personal injury lawsuit in history of mankind.
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