Vioxx Decision Upheld But Reduced As Merck & Co. Is Ordered To Pay Widow $8.7 Million Instead of $32 Million

In one of the many thousands of products liability Vioxx-related lawsuits that have been brought against Merck and Co., a Texas judge upheld a ruling that held the pharmaceutical company responsible for the death of Leonel Garza.

Garza died in 2001 from a heart attack believed to have been caused by taking Vioxx. Last April, a jury ruled that Merck was liable and awarded Garza’s family $32 million in damages. Judge Alex Gabert, however, said that the award amount violated Texas’s strict limit on compensatory and punitive damages. He reduced the damage amount to $8.7 million.

Merck plans to ask for a new trial because of information revealing that there had been a financial relationship between Felicia Garza, Leonel’s widow, and one of the jury members responsible for the original verdict.

The victory is good news for other Vioxx plaintiffs because it showed that a court had agreed that even short-term use of Vioxx can lead to severe side effects. More than 27,000 lawsuits have been filed against Merck. A New Orleans federal judge, however, said plaintiffs could not file a class action lawsuit and that each case had to be filed separately. Merck has won most of its cases thus far.

The pharmaceutical company had pulled the drug from the shelf in 2004 after a study revealed that long-term use of the drug can double a patient’s risk of a coronary event.

USA provides the following timeline that led to the withdrawal of Merck from medical counters:

May 1999: FDA approves Vioxx.

March 2000: Merck reveals that a new study found Vioxx patients had double the rate of serious cardiovascular problems than those on naproxen, an older nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID.

November 2000: The New England Journal of Medicine publishes the study, called VIGOR.

February 2001: An advisory panel recommends the FDA require a label warning of the possible link to cardiovascular problems.

September 2001: The FDA warns Merck to stop misleading doctors about Vioxx’s effect on the cardiovascular system.

April 2002: The FDA tells Merck to add information about cardiovascular risk to Vioxx’s label.

Aug. 25, 2004: An FDA researcher presents results of a database analysis of 1.4 million patients; it concludes that Vioxx users are more likely to suffer a heart attack or sudden cardiac death than those taking Celebrex or an older NSAID.

Sept. 23, 2004: Merck says it learned this day that patients taking Vioxx in a study were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke as those on placebo.

Sept. 30, 2004: Merck withdraws Vioxx from the U.S. and the more than 80 other countries in which it was marketed.

Lebowitz and Mzhen represents clients in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area in matters against corporations or manufacturers who have sold or manufactured unsafe products to consumers. This area of personal injury law, called products liability, is an area that focuses on dangerous and defective products. If you’ve had an incident with a product that caused an injury, or are the survivor of someone who may have died from the use or exposure to a dangerous or defective product, it’s important that you know your rights under the law. Contact Lebowitz and Mzhen today to schedule a free consultation.

Vioxx Decision Upheld, Award Reduced by Texas Court,, December 26, 2006
How did Vioxx debacle happen? USA, October 12, 2004

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Vioxx Information,
A Vioxx Lawsuit,

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