Late yesterday in New Orleans the most recent federal trial in the Vioxx litigation came to a swift conclusion, with the jury taking less then three hours to return a defense verdict in favor of Merck.
Apparently the existing risk factors of the plaintiff in this case, which included prior diagnosis of high blood pressure, clogged arteries and obesity where too much for the jury to over look. This coupled with a relatively short duration of taking Vioxx, 4.5 months according to court testimony, made the evidence against Vioxx less then compelling.
I hate the "score card" analogy that the WSJ and other papers are using on the trial, as it tends to trivialize or reduce to a competition a very serious situation and tens of thousands of broken lives. However, at this point the number of cases decided in Merck's favor is 5 to 4 with one on appeal and another verdict vacated last month.
Merck needed a win and their lead trial counsel, Attorney Phil Beck was back out in front of the media affirming their intention to try every case one at a time. I expect that to come to an end once the statute of limitations on filing cases expires next Monday and they get a handle on just how many cases have been filed and what their liability going forward truly is. While the lawyers will argue to continue going to trial, at some point the drain on company resources, cash, and managerial attention will have to reach a point where a global settlement makes the most sense for stockholders. We just aren't at that point yet.