Monday, April 17, 2006

Vioxx: Merck's headache continues

The NJ court last week awarded Mr John McDarby USD 4.5 million and this Tuesday awarded him another USD 9 million as damages, finding Merck guilty of not informing patients that longterm vioxx use is associated with an increase risk of heart attacks and strokes. The total damages awarded was USD 13.5 million. This is the second case that Merck has lost since August last year. You may recall that we wrote earlier about the effect of COX2 inhibitors on the endothelium and the arterial wall, concluding that the use of COX2 inhibitors may cause arterial thrombosis. Merck had in 2004 withdrew vioxx voluntarily after cases of heart attacks were reported, in patients who were using vioxx. There are thousands more cases awaiting trial. It is interesting to note that the New Jersey court did not find Merck guilty in the case of Thomas Cona, because he could not furnish evidence that he had purchase and use vioxx for 18 months or more. It would appear that the jury believe that chronic use of vioxx may have contributed to Mr McDarby's heart attack, while less then 18 months' use may not have cause the heart attacks.

Whatever it is, we would advice that patients who had heart disease, or who is at high risk of hert disease should use COX2 inhibitors very judiciously and only under close medical supervision.

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