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BUSINESS: Jury Awards $253 Million to Vioxx Victim's Widow

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posted on Aug, 19 2005 @ 02:11 PM
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A Texas jury has handed down a verdict that Merck must pay $253.4 million in damages to the widow of a man who died while taking the company's Vioxx painkiller. The painkiller was pulled off the market when it became known it dramatically increased the risk of a heart attack. Merck plans to appeal the decision.
 



www.foxnews.com
ANGLETON, Texas — A Texas jury found pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. (MRK) liable for the death of a man who took the once-popular painkiller Vioxx in the first of thousands of lawsuits pending across the country. The decision came during the second day of deliberations.

The seven-man, five-woman jury awarded Robert Ernst's widow, Carol, $253.4 million in damages, which is a combination of his lost pay as a Wal-Mart produce manager, mental anguish, loss of companionship and punitive damages. That breaks down to about $229 million in punitive damages, and $24 million in mental anguish and loss of companionship.

In Texas, punitive damages are capped at twice the amount of economic damages — lost pay — and up to $750,000 on top of non-economic damages. Non-economic damages have no limit in Texas except in medical malpractice cases, which doesn't apply to the Ernst case.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Wow, that's a huge damages award -- far higher than even the plaintiff had ever thought she could get. Thousands of such cases are pending against Merck, and if all the cases end up like this the company could be driven out of business.

[edit on 8/19/2005 by djohnsto77]




posted on Aug, 19 2005 @ 07:57 PM
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It is my understanding that Merck spent $155 million advertising VIOXX BEFORE it had FDA approval. That's just one year's advertising costs. Puts things in perspective doesn't it? Maybe if the multitude of lawsuits that are about to hit Merck sink the company, we'll be a little safer when we accept that next prescription from our family doctor.



posted on Aug, 20 2005 @ 06:58 AM
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I think many of the problems with modern drugs comes from government and by extension societal pressure against drugs that can be addictive. Antidepressant drugs are showing weird side effects, but would be unnecessary if benzodiazepines (like Valium) were more acceptable and now these painkillers are showing problems but would be unnecessary if narcotics (such as codeine) were more acceptable and widely available...



posted on Aug, 20 2005 @ 09:21 AM
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Originally posted by djohnsto77
I think many of the problems with modern drugs comes from government and by extension societal pressure against drugs that can be addictive. Antidepressant drugs are showing weird side effects, but would be unnecessary if benzodiazepines (like Valium) were more acceptable and now these painkillers are showing problems but would be unnecessary if narcotics (such as codeine) were more acceptable and widely available...



Actually, the problems surrounding the NSAIDs are disconnected from "painkiller" choices. NSAIDs were designed to decrease inflammation that causes the pain in the first place; usually associated with arthritis and related conditions. In other words, I believe they were developed to get more to the CAUSE of the pain rather than mask the pain. It appears now that the entire NSAID family of drugs has a common problem. One of those problems is:

They were pushed to a wider market than they should have been.

And what I mean by this is...if you're 85 years old and suffering from tremendous arthritic pain, and you have no history of heart problems, hypertension or high cholesterol. You should be able to use an NSAID type medication to assist in your arthritic condition with minimal risk that it will end your life early. If you're 55 years old and you've got high blood pressure and cholesterol, and you've already had one heart attack - you should have never been given an NSAID...and Merck et. al. pressured a wide prescribing of these medications. They deserve to pay a little. And I'm absolutely not a litigious person. I also don't agree with the litigious nature of our society. And I back policy to get frivolous law suits under control and place caps on awards...but I'm also pretty disgusted with the antics that the pharmaceutical companies keep pulling. They need to be put in their place and it seems money is all that matters, so put them there through their wallets.

$253 million may be an excessive award (in fact, I personally believe it is), but if it sends a clear message to the drug companies - it was just right.



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