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.
Vioxx 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.