The Vioxx Verdict, Savior of Social Security
The Beginning of the End of the Pharmaceutical Industry?
IN THE NEWS
A Texas jury dealt Merck a painful blow, finding the drug maker liable for a Vioxx patient's death and slapping it with $253 million in damages. With about 4,200 more Vioxx lawsuits to go, the verdict was an ominous start for Merck.
The Evening Wrap
The Wall Street Journal (wsj.com), Aug. 19, 2005, 5:20 p.m. EDT
"If you represent yourself in a court of law," the old adage goes, "you have a fool for a client."
A law firm that does its own marketing also has a fool for a client.
A case in point is the high-stakes world of Vioxx litigation. The arthritis drug had been voluntarily pulled off the market in September 2004 after it was discovered to have a link to strokes and heart attacks if a patient had taken it daily for over 18 months.
In Angleton, Texas, the first trial against Merck & Co. was decided. At issue was whether Vioxx caused the death of 59-year-old triathlete Robert Ernst from arrhythmia, and if so, should his widow receive $40 million? The question that the jury had to consider was whether Merck had been negligent in testing, advertising and marketing Vioxx.
Because 4,200 other lawsuits against Merck are in the works, it was impossible to get a seat in the Texas courtroom. It was packed with product liability lawyers watching the proceedings intently.
The guilty verdict came quickly and was stunning. Instead of awarding Carol Ernst the $40 million she was suing for, it handed her a windfall of $253 million.
Prior to the resolution of this trial, it was estimated that Merck could be liable for as much as $18 billion in Vioxx litigation.
If the award stands, Merck could be hit for $50 billion or more.