Merck & Co is celebrating another legal victory in its defence of the withdrawn painkiller Vioxx after a court in New Orleans rejected a man’s claim that the drug had caused his heart attack in 2003.

Anthony Dedrick, now 50, claimed that he took Vioxx (rofecoxib) for

approximately six months before his heart attack, but the jury decided that

Merck acted appropriately in the development and marketing of the drug and was not to blame.

The credibility of Mr Dedrick, who was seeking damages of $200,000 from

the New Jersey drugmaker, was called into question during the case and

Merck lawyer Phil Beck noted that he had a family history of cardiac

problems, was a heavy smoker for many years and had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The lawyer stated that “in addition, he had significant atherosclerosis before he began taking Vioxx. Unfortunately, Mr Dedrick would have suffered a heart attack whether he was taking Vioxx or not.”

The Dedrick case was the fifth federal trial and Merck has won four of

them; even the damages award in the loss has been overturned. Of the 17 cases that have been tried or scheduled for trial and are no longer

pending, only four have resulted in a plaintiff’s verdict. In all those

four, the company has filed an appeal or sought judicial review.

Merck concluded by noting that the claims of more than 3,000 plaintiff

groups, not yet scheduled for trial, have been dismissed, although around

2,000 of those claims can be refiled. Nevertheless, it seems that Merck

will be staying in court for a little while yet as the firm revealed at

its analyst and investor meeting this week that it still faces about

27,200 personal injury lawsuits over Vioxx, which include some 45,900

plaintiff groups, plus 265 potential class-action lawsuits.