A Texan court has overturned a $32 million verdict issued in 2006 against Merck & Co in the latest news to come out of the ongoing Vioxx (rofecoxib) lawsuit.

Deeming the evidence to be “legally insufficient”, the jury unanimously agreed to dismiss the $7 million in compensation and $25 million in punitive damages first awarded against Merck to the wife of Leonel Garza. He suffered a fatal heart attack in 2001 alleged to have been caused by the COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx, which was withdrawn from the global market in 2004 after a study showed a doubling in the risk of heart attack and stroke after 18 months’ treatment.

However, the jury said the evidence did not support the earlier finding that the plaintiffs “negated, with reasonable certainty, Mr Garza’s preexisting heart condition as a plausible cause of his death.” Under state law, the plaintiff must provide evidence ruling out the possibility that pre-existing heart disease could have been the cause of death.

“Today’s decision reaffirms that there is simply no reliable scientific evidence that Vioxx caused Leonel Garza’s heart attack,” commented Ted Mayer, outside counsel for Merck. This was the sixth case to go to trial; juries have now found in favour of Merck 13 times and in plaintiffs’ favour four times.

The US giant has now set up a $4.85 billion settlement fund to resolve Vioxx claims filed by November 9 last year.