Merck & Co last week scored its eleventh win in the ongoing legal battle over its painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib), which was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after a major clinical study threw up a link to cardiovascular disease amongst patients taking the drug for more than 18 months.

This latest court case concerned Refik Kozic, a US soccer player, who suffered a heart attack in 2001 at the age of 50 after taking Vioxx for just nine weeks. But Merck’s lawyers argued that Kozic’s heart attack was caused by existing atherosclerosis – furring of the arteries – as well as other contributing factors, including high cholesterol. “We believe the evidence showed that Merck acted responsibly and that Vioxx was not the cause of Mr Kozic’s heart attack,” said Mike Brock, from the firm’s legal team at Rushton, Stakely, Johnston & Garrett.

Overall, courts have found in favour of Merck 11 times and in favour of the plaintiffs five times. There have been two mistrials and a federal judge has set aside one of Merck’s 11 wins. However, it still faces more than 27,000 product liability lawsuits and has set aside $1.8 billion to fight the cases.

This was the first case in Florida, USA, to reach the courts.