In a closely watched, but barely reported, trial in the Federal MDL in New Orleans, LA the jury found for the plaintiff today in the most recent Vioxx trial. I'll provide greater details as they become available regarding jury comments, post trial damage control and analysis, but lets bring all you vacationing Vioxx watchers up to speed on what made this particular case unique.
The case involved a 62 year old male, Gerald Barnett, who was a retired FBI agent that took Vioxx for over 33 months and was, according to his allegations, the triggering source of his heart attack. The former agent had some risk factors, but had been on a steady exercise and weight reduction program, cholesterol lowering regime and was in good health at the time of his heart attack according to testimony presented at the trial. He ended up needing a 5 way heart by pass that left him fatigued and weakened. According to testimony his personal physician would have never prescribed Vioxx for a man with Mr. Barnetts health and risk profile if the elevated risk of Vioxx had been disclosed, and the failure to disclose was the heart of this case.
I was intrigued with this particular case from the start as it finally brought together many of the elements that had been missing in some of the recent wins for Merck. First, you had a clearly documented long term usage case where a prescription trail was available to show the plaintiff had in fact been prescribed the drug and kept on it for that duration. Second, you had a very competent personal physician/cardiologist testify that had the company not hid the results of it's studies he would never have had Barnett on Vioxx given his other risk factors. Third, you had a plaintiff that was actively working to lower and correct his other risk factors and had successfully done so, thus mitigating the defense argument that the plaintiff was a heart attack/stroke waiting to happen and that Vioxx had no effect on the inevitable.
In short, you had a solid case that focused on the facts that are most damning for Vioxx/Merck and drives home the key issue that no responsible attending physician or cardiologist would have allowed a client to take the drug if the risk of the drug had been disclosed.
More details later but this is an interesting result and badly needed by the plaintiffs given the recent reversals.