A New Jersey superior court judge Monday upheld a Friday jury verdict for Merck & Co, finding that the company had given adequate warning to physicians of the risks associated with its painkiller Vioxx. Judge Carol Higbee rejected a motion by plaintiffs attorney Mark Lanier disputing a finding that the drug company had warned doctors prescribing Vioxx that a 2004 study showed the drug doubled the risk of heart attack or stroke in patients who took it for longer than 18 months; Lanier represents the estate of a deceased man whose fatal heart attack is alleged to have been caused by the drug.
Merck faces more than 27,000 lawsuits from people who say they were harmed by the once $2.5 billion-a-year drug before it was pulled from the market in September of 2004. Merck has set aside $1 billion to fight every Vioxx court challenge. In November 2006, a federal judge declined to certify a national class action suit, ruling that it made more sense to try the cases in their respective states of origin.